By Tom Williams
The Struthers High football team converted two big turnovers into 13 points on Friday to turn a tight contest into a 35-14 romp over Lakeview.
With the Wildcats (2-0) leading 8-0 in the second quarter, the Bulldogs (0-2) marched to the Struthers 10-yard line. On third down, Wildcats cornerback Frankie Serrano intercepted Angelo Marino’s pass and raced untouched for a 92-yard touchdown.
“This feels good,” Serrano said of the winning streak. “Hopefully, it keeps going.”
Trailing 15-7 in the third quarter, the Bulldogs forced a punt that Jake Pishotti fumbled. Cameron Suchora’s recovery at the Lakeview 45 led to a five-play drive capped by Nick Pollifrone’s 8-yard touchdown run and a 21-7 lead.
“You have to protect the football,” Lakeview head coach Tom Pavlansky, “You can’t expect to have success against a good team like Struthers when you lose the turnover margin.”
Struthers head coach Kurt Kuntz was pleased that his first-string defense held the Bulldogs to seven points.
“Considering their explosive offense, that’s unbelieveable,” said Kuntz, crediting assistant coach Gary Hoelzel’s staff. “They kept us in the game until we could figure it out on offense.”
Wildcats running back Luke Witkowski’s 141 yards included a 36-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs fumbled the ensuing kickoff but stopped the Wildcats at the Lakeview 19. They responded on offense by marching deep into Struthers territory when Serrano showed off his skills from another varsity sport.
“[Marino] let go of the ball and I just reacted,” said Serrano, a member of Struthers’ 4x200 relay team that advanced to the state track meet three months ago. “I just used my speed to get away. It felt great.”
Kuntz said his staff tells Serrano to not be afraid to take chances.
“We tell him, ‘Play with confidence because you’re faster than anyone out there. So play like it,’ ” Kuntz said. “He made the right read and took advantage of it.”
Late in the first half, Marino’s long sideline pass to Ryan Pishotti covered 57 yards. One play later, Marino scored from the 10 to keep the Wildcats in reach at 15-7.
Suchora’s fumble recovery in the third quarter gave the momentum back to the Wildcats.
“I just had a feeling that we were going to make a big play,” said Suchora, who added that the ball “looked huge” after the fumble. “I just dropped on it.”
Marino competed 8 of 13 passes for 124 yards.
As the second half progressed, the Wildcats’ running attack gobbled up yards. Witkowski picked up 80 after intermission.
Witkowski called the 2-0 start, “real important because we are trying to go all the way.”