Two quick scores before halftime touched offHarding's 43-10 romp.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- When you have the talent, speed and depth that the Warren Harding High football team enjoys this season, you have the weapons and the capability to break a big play and break open a close game.
Such was the case Friday at Youngstown State University's Stambaugh Stadium when the unbeaten Raiders, nursing a 15-10 lead over Ursuline, scored twice within the final 1:11 of the first half and went on to a 43-10 blowout of the Irish in a Steel Valley Conference game.
Harding (6-0, 2-0 SVC) entered the game ranked No. 1 in the state in Division I of the Associated Press poll and No. 2 in Region 1 of the computer playoff ratings.
The Raiders, working their two-minute offense without a huddle to perfection just before halftime, scored on quarterback Mike Phillips' 43-yard strike to wide receiver Tremayne Warfield at 1:11 to cap an 80-yard, six-play drive.
The speedy Warfield took the pass at about the 40, accelerated and was gone. Phillips also ran for the conversion.
And then, on Ursuline's first play of the next series, Harding's Rob Massucci intercepted a pass at the 50 and returned the ball to the Irish 2 to set up quarterback Mike Kokal's 1-yard scoring plunge three plays later at :29 before intermission.
So in that short 1:11 span, the Raiders took a 29-10 lead into the lockerroom.
A quick turnabout
"We took a close ball game that was 15-10 and turned it around," Harding coach Thom McDaniels said. "We had two quick scores just before half and they were the turning point."
McDaniels was pleased with the effectiveness of Harding's two-minute offense.
"We worked our two-minute offense before the half. We [practice] it on Mondays and Thursdays," said McDaniels, noting that his team has scored six of the seven times it used the two-minute offense this season.
Ursuline (3-3, 0-2 SVC) held a 10-7 lead after the opening quarter on Nick Royer's 23-yard field goal and quarterback Daryll Clark's 76-yard scoring pass to tight end Lou Irizarry and Royer's placement. But the Irish could not score again.
Ursuline coach Dan Murphy said Harding's two quick scores just before half "were huge. I think that was the turning point. They hurt us with some big plays. They have talented kids."
Murphy said the Raiders' "speed and depth played a role in the loss. They are able to make the big plays. They have good players that can break it at any given time."
Harding retaliated after both of Ursuline's early scores to stay in control.
First, Kokal connected on a 65-yard TD toss to wide receiver Antuwan Molder in the opening period, and then running back Richard Davis broke several tacklers to reel off an 8-yard run to cap a 94-yard, 13-play drive. Those scores helped the Raiders to the 15-10 lead to set the stage for the pre-half uprising.
Then in the third period, Phillips broke a 71-yard run to Ursuline's 8 to set up Davis' 4-yard TD dash two plays later. And Kokal tallied on a 21-yard dash early in the fourth quarter to climax a 58-yard, nine-play march.
Depth is a factor
McDaniels said Harding's depth was important to the win.
"Numbers and endurance were factors. They [Ursuline] have fewer players. We have players [for] offense and defense. No one starter is a two-way starter for us. They had most of their players playing both ways. We may have worn them down with our depth," McDaniels said.
Davis rushed for 102 yards in 15 carries and two TDs to spark Harding, while Phillips added 89 yards in six carries and completed 10 passes for 110 yards and one TD to also sparkle. Warfield had four receptions for 80 yards and Danny Stella three catches for 28 yards.
Clark led Ursuline with 155 yards passing on 8-for-22, Irizarry getting three receptions for 92 yards and wide receiver Isaiah Poindexter four catches for 30 yards.
Running back Delbert Ferguson led the Irish ground attack with 84 yards in 17 carries. Ursuline had 103 rushing yards in 27 attempts and 12 first downs.