By Doug Chapin
McDONALD — Practice makes perfect.
McDonald High completed its second straight undefeated regular season Friday night with a 47-7 romp over Leetonia and Blue Devils coach Dan Williams said he thinks going 10-0 a year ago helped during this perfect season.
“That’s our sixth 10-0 season in our 87 years of football,“ Williams said, “and it’s not easy. People underestimate what needs to happen for 10 weeks in a row, and you’re still dealing with 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids, and their mistakes and everything.
“This team was more seasoned because of a year ago. Each week they were more relaxed. Last year, each week we’d get that win under our belt and then we’d get more tense, worrying about that first setback. This team was more seasoned, was able to handle the pressure better week by week.
“Plus, we’ve got great kids, my coaching staff is second to none, they’re unbelievable, and everyone works real hard.”
McDonald, which also clinched the Inter Tri-County League Tier Two title, is expected to play host to a first-round Division VI playoff game Nov. 7.
Williams said he hopes experience also will help the Devils during the playoff season. In 2008, McDonald defeated Western Reserve, 21-7, before losing to Norwalk St. Paul, 34-0.
“This senior class has been involved in four playoff games,” Williams said. “Four years in a row they’ve made the playoffs and each and every year we’ve gained more experience. That will be a key to hopefully a playoff run for us this year, the experience we’ve gained the last few years.
“With this football team, with the confidence they have, the way their work ethic is, I’m definitely looking forward to getting into the playoffs and making a run.”
Friday night the Devils scored on four straight first-half possession, using only 11 plays on those drives. Six of those 11 plays gained 9 yards or more, including a 43-yard touchdown run by Zach Tura and a 50-yard touchdown pass from Devin Bansberg to Justin Rota on a halfback pass.
Senior running back Nick Cupan ground out 141 yards on 22 carries and scored twice.
The Devils held a 475-84 edge in total yards and a 16-3 advantage in first downs.
Despite some gaudy offensive numbers, it’s the McDonald defense which could hold the key in the postseason. Leetonia (5-5, 3-4 ITCL) failed to gain a first down on 10 of its 13 possessions on Friday.
“Our defense is getting stronger by the week,” Williams said. “We’re giving up seven points a game for 10 weeks and that’s fantastic. If I look at any place in particular I think our defensive unit has been a real key to our success this season.”
Williams said the seniors on this team were focused from the start on a 10-0 season.
“Everyone sets out to win every game, that’s your first goal, then league title, playoff appearance and so on,” Williams said. “These kids felt that loss in the playoffs to Norwalk St. Paul. Those juniors, now seniors, they were determined to come out and go 10-0. That was the only thing on their mind this year. I give our senior class credit, 19 kids, and they held in there strong and had a great year.”