By DOUG CHAPIN
Two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half and another score on the first possession of the second half broke open a grind-it-out game as McDonald defeated Lowellville, 35-6.
The Blue Devils (3-2, 2-0 ITCL) have beaten the Rockets (2-3, 0-2) eight years in a row, the last five times by at least 15 points.
Running an option attack out of a wishbone look, the Rockets, with a big, experienced offensive line, tried to control the game with long, time-consuming drives.
“They played Springfield Local and so did we, but we lost and they beat Springfield by two scores,” McDonald coach Dan Williams said about the Rockets. “We talked to Springfield’s coaches and they got beat physically by Lowellville. We got beat physically by Springfield Local, so it was a concern coming in.
Lowellville, playing without starting quarterback Evan Filip, had success on the ground, especially early. The Rockets put together an 11-play drive to start the game, but were unable to score. Lowellville also had a 10-play scoreless drive in the second half.
Of more importance were two shorter possessions, both of which ended in lost fumbles.
“We thought we could option them tonight,” Lowellville coach Mike Palumbo said. “We had a lot of 10, 12-play drives but we had mistakes. With the offense we run, running the clock, you can’t have those mistakes. We had two key fumbles in the first half. If we don’t have them and score a touchdown, it’s 7-7 at the half. That’s a big turnaround.
“On the opening drive (of the second half) we came out a little flat and they capitalized on that. Down three scores it’s tough to come back against a good team like McDonald.”
“They ran the option just like we thought,” Williams said. “Their starting quarterback didn’t play, which hurt them, but I thought the kid they had in there [Randy Pavlicko] hurt us at times. The fullback [Geno Tkach] hurt us at times. It was one of those bend-but-not break things tonight with us.
“Our kids toughened up on third down quite a bit, made the big play when it counted, forced a turnover on downs and a couple of punts in the first half.”
Early in the second quarter, Lowellville’s Paul Morales recovered a McDonald fumble, setting up the Rockets at the Devils’ 28. But two plays later the Rockets coughed up the ball inside the 10 and Justin Rota recovered for McDonald.
The Blue Devils put together their own scoreless, 11-play drive, but when they lost the ball on downs it was at the Lowellville 4. The Rockets punted and McDonald took over at the Lowellville 35 with 2:29 showing on the first-half clock.
After a 23-yard pass from Matthias Tayala (9-for-18, 157 yards) to Justin Rota and an 8-yard run by Nick Rota, Zach Tura scored from 4 yards out with 1:42 left to play.
Lowellville fumbled again on the first play after the kickoff, and McDonald had the ball on the Rocket 42 with 1:27 remaining. Tayala had runs of 11 and 17 yards, plus a 3-yard run on a fourth-and-2, then another 3-yard run for a touchdown with just five seconds left in the half.
The Blue Devils put the game away with two third-quarter touchdowns.