From pre-game ceremonies recognizing Struthers High School champions from 1967 (Steel Valley Conference) and 1982 (Mahoning Valley Conference), the 2012 Wildcats squad must have absorbed some inspiration.
Just minutes after the kickoff, Tommy Kimbrough caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Gary Muntean and Struthers (5-3, 2-2 AAC American Division) was on its way to a 39-21 victory over Canfield.
The win was Struthers’ first over Canfield in years. In fact, no one could remember the Wildcats’ last win in the series.
“It was definitely good getting this win,” said David Stewart, who scored four touchdowns and had 248 yards to go over 1,000. “The last time we played them, I think I was in middle school and we got killed,” said the 6-0, 210 senior.
Stewart said that Canfield (2-6, 1-3 AAC American) was one of three games the players circled on their schedule this season.
Two of Stewart’s TDs came via pass from Muntean from 45 and 34 yards out and two were from runs covering 35 and 8 yards. But Stewart’s longest gain was 52 yards that preceded Luke Witkowski’s 13-yard TD run with 3:58 remaining in the game.
“Coach said that we’re the only people who can stop it if we run it right,” Stewart said of the belly play that goes by the numbers “34” or “35”.
He credits blockers such as center Dan Dudley, left guard Mike Pape, left tackle Dan Pape, Carmen Sinkovich and Donald Clyde at right guard and right tackle Curtis Wagner.
With starting FB Nick Pollifrone out, sophomore Austin Yemma and senior Tyler McNally alternated in Pollifrone’s place.
Stewart didn’t stop there, adding TD Cameron Suchora and receivers Tommy Kimbrough and Marcus Donnadio to his offensive lineup litany.
By entered the game with 936 yards, Stewart’s 248 put him at 1,184 for the season.
The running back said he also scored four times against Hubbard, but he said it’s nothing he anticipates.
“Every game, I look to go out to win. It’s not about what I’m doing on the field, but it’s about whether we’re doing good enough as a team to deal with the opponent and beat them and tonight we definitely did that.”
When asked about going over 1,000 yards, Stewart said: “Without this offensive line there ain’t no way.”
It was an amazingly clean game with only one 5-yard penalty.
Adding to Canfield’s frustration was Muntean, whose decisions at quarterback kept the Cardinals off balance, especially when he’d cleverly tuck the ball and run after feigning a pass or by escaping from a collapsing pocket.
After Jake Cole ran 46 yards for a Canfield TD on its opening drive of the second half to pull within 20-14, Struthers wasn’t out of the woods.