By John Kovach
CANFIELD — It was a successful season finale Saturday afternoon for the East High football program, which also makes the outlook bright for next year.
The Panthers enjoyed strong offensive and defensive performances to roll past arch-rival and turnover-plagued Chaney, 34-6, at Canfield High stadium in a battle between the only two Youngstown city schools.
Quarterback Shawn Haywood and wide receiver Michael Thomas combined to contribute to 22 of the team’s 34 points to lead the East victory, and both players are juniors and will be back next season.
And also on a happy note: East senior tackle Kendall Peterson, who has played the line since he was a sophomore, was inserted into the backfield late in the game to give him a chance to score his first career TD, and he did so — wearing a teammate’s jersey to make the tally legal.
Haywood threw three touchdown passes to Thomas covering 9, 18 and 33 yards, and Haywood also tossed a pair of conversion passes, as East (3-7) opened a 14-6 halftime lead and scored three more times in the second half to completely dominate Chaney for their third straight win over the Cowboys (1-9).
Chaney, however, still leads in the series between the two city schools, 40-30-4.
Haywood completed 14 of 26 passes for 242 yards, while Thomas had six catches for 162 yards.
Terrance Meyers also scored for East on a 6-yard run, while Oshae Lawrence and Martez Penn caught conversion passes from Haywood.
Meyers and Leon Edwards each had 40 yards rushing on seven and nine carries, respectively.
Chaney’s only touchdown was by Stephen Shackleford on a 5-yard run in the second quarter, after East had taken a 14-0 lead.
“They have a tremendous relationship,” said East coach Brian Shaner of the chemistry between Haywood and Thomas, who has the speed to break away in the clear to receive a pass.
“Thomas is one of the fastest guys in the state,” said Shaner, noting that the receiver is also a state-qualifying track sprinter. “He is hard to cover.”
Shaner said Thomas has about 600 receiving yards and nine or 10 touchdowns this season, and is “a great wide receiver.”
Shaner also paid tribute to his offensive line, which provided the protection Haywood needed to get off his throws, and his defensive line which created three turnovers that set up three East TDs, and stopped two Chaney threats at the Panthers’ 6- and 24-yard lines.
“The highlight of this game was that Kendall Peterson scored the first touchdown of his career,” Shaner happily declared.
Peterson, a 5-11, 225-pound tackle who also led East’s defense with 18 tackles, including eight solo stops, was given a new jersey number and inserted into the backfield after East had driven to the Chaney 1-yard line late in the game.
Shaner said he wanted to give Peterson a chance to score a TD and fulfill a promise that the coach had made to him when he was a sophomore.
“I told him when he was a sophomore that if he played line for me that I’d give him a chance to play offense and score a TD somewhere or somehow,” said Shaner.
The coach called timeout after Thomas was stopped at the 1-yard line on East’s last scoring drive so that Peterson could exchange his usual No. 51 jersey for a new No. 34 jersey.
“We carry an extra jersey. State rules say that you cannot wear 50s, 60s or 70s numbers if you are in the backfield,” Shaner explained.