By John Bassetti
Mark Asher literally dropped what he was doing — holding a clipboard and football — to make sure all players rang the victory bell following Struthers’ 29-9 win over Jefferson Area.
“Did everybody ring that?” the new coach yelled as he left the items on the turf before dashing off to the celebration site.
The win ushered in the Asher era by using a mix of running backs Mike Kunzer and Nick Pollifrone, quarterback Tommy Kimbrough and receiver Dylan Duchek, while the Wildcats’ defense clamped down on Jefferson at the right times.
“I’m pleased,” the new coach said. “We ran a lot of formations tonight,” he said of his players’ acclimation to the “newness.”
Tommy Kimbrough was one of those individuals adapting to Asher’s system, especially when he found Dylan Duchek for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 2.8 seconds remaining before halftime.
“On the play right before, I thought we could get by the [Jefferson defender] guy, so we kind of ran close to the same play and told him [Kimbrough] to look to the outside [look for Duchek] if they would jump the inside receiver and they did,” Asher said of the play down the right sideline that put Struthers ahead for good, 14-9.
Execution like that made Asher’s debut easier.
“We made some adjustments,” Asher said of the second half when Struthers’ offense pounded away at Jefferson on the ground.
“I’m a guy who likes to keep a little bit for the second half,” the coach said. “Tommy came through and listened to the adjustments and did some checking and did a nice job.”
After completing 7 of 10 passes for 89 yards in the first half, Kimbrough, a 6-2, 205 junior, threw just one more pass: an incompletion.
The defense did its part, too, as outside linebacker Tyler Stocker slammed into Jefferson quarterback Connor Cleveland.
“He’s quick and does a nice job,” Asher said of Stocker, a senior who rushed in from Cleveland’s blind side for a 6-yard loss that caused the Falcons to punt the ball one play later.
That enabled the Wildcats to take possession and march 63 yards for Kunzer’s second of three touchdowns.
Mike Kunzer had 11 carries for 72 yards, Kimbrough had 16 attempts for 57 yards and Pollifrone had five rushes for 27.
Jefferson coach Jim Henson said the 20-point loss didn’t do his team justice.
“I think we played a little better than that, but we had opportunities to put the ball in the end zone and didn’t.”
On one instance late in the game, Jefferson got burned.
“When you bring pressure and miss a tackle there’s no one left behind. We were in a position to make something happen with the clock winding down on us.”
Cleveland, a senior, was making his first varsity start.