STRONGSVILLE Gutsy call leads to Warren Harding victory
Mike Kokal connected with Treymayne Warfield for the game-winning touchdown.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
STRONGSVILLE -- The Warren Harding High football team found some Friday night magic to pull out a thrilling 28-21 victory over Strongsville.
Mike Kokal tossed a 14-yard pass to Treymayne Warfield with 17 seconds remaining to rally Warren Harding to the victory in front of an overflow crowd at Strongsville's Pat Catan Stadium.
The Raiders (3-0) overcame a furious 14-point fourth-quarter effort by the Mustangs, who tied the score with 1 minute, 20 seconds left on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jason Robinson to Brandon Murphy.
Harding drove 63 yards in 1:03. Staring at a third-and-13 call at their own 45, Raiders coach Thom McDaniels changed his mind at the last minute and burned his team's final timeout before making the biggest call of the game.
McDaniels called on the game's smallest guy, 5-foot-7, 160-pound Rob Massucci, and the tailback raced around left end for a 26-yard gain to the Mustangs' 29-yard line.
"What a call," said Strongsville coach Russ Jacques. "We were expecting some kind of screen or draw, but Thom made a great call."
McDaniels said, "We changed our mind at the last minute. We thought if we tried to run it outside that we might get a first down. Fortunately it worked out and Rob made more than just the first down."
After a pass interference call moved the ball to the 14, Kokal came through with the winning touchdown pass.
"What a great game," McDaniels said. "Strongsville's a great football team, and we needed every bit of effort to pull this out."
Harding dominated the game early and took a 15-7 halftime lead behind two second-quarter scores.
Mike Phillips helped pull Harding even with Strongsville 7-7 on a 25-yard run. Moments later, Richard Davis went off right tackle and raced 86 yards to another score. Phillips' run on the conversion gave Harding the 15-7 lead.
Harding outplayed Strongsville in the third quarter, running 17 plays to the Mustangs' 6 but didn't score until the first play of the fourth quarter, on Stefan Alexander's 4-yard run.
At that point, Strongsville (1-2) changed quarterbacks, and that seemed to spark the Mustangs.
Robinson rallied Strongsville to two fourth-quarter scores, the last being a 24-yard pass to the standout Murphy for 24 yards and the tying score.
Murphy, who rushed for over 300 yards last week against Euclid, was held to 100 yards on 28 carries by the Harding defense.
Massucci also provided outstanding special teams for the Raiders, amassing over 100 return yards.
Harding outgained Strongsville in total yardage 340 to 218.