By Tom Williams
Once the Cardinal Mooney High school football team’s engine fired up, the Cardinals rolled to a blowout victory.
Second-half interceptions by Alex Sepesy and Jaylen Hewlett propelled the Cardinals to Saturday’s 42-6 romp over Cleveland Heights at Youngstown State University’s Stambaugh Stadium.
“This win is tremendous,” said Sepesy, who returned Reggie Harris’ screen pass 65 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. “It’s our first home-opener win since 2011.”
Sepesy said the victory is “a big confidence boost for this train that we’re getting on, all the way to December. We’re going to hop on and it’s going to keep rolling down.”
Sepesy’s touchdown extended the Cardinals’ lead to 28-6.
“I knew right away it was going to be a screen, so I sat on it,” the linebacker said. “As soon as he threw it, my eyes just got wide and I went for it.”
Hewlett’s pickoff came late in that quarter and he raced 67 yards before being caught at the Cleveland Heights 20. In the second quarter, Hewlett also broke free for a 60-yard run to the 3.
Asked which play he treasured more, Hewlett said, “the pick just because I’ve never caught a pick ever.
“It felt great,” the senior defensive end said. Sepesy credited Hewlett’s blocking for helping him find a path to the end zone. Hewlett said he should have returned the favor.
“I should have followed ‘Sep,’” Hewlett said. “I thought I could out run him.”
Hewlett said Harris must not have seen him when he released.
“He threw it so fast, I just made a play on the ball,” Hewlett said.
Four plays after Hewlett’s interception, Mooney quarterback Antonio Page scored from the 1. Sepesy ran the conversion in for a 36-6 lead, triggering the running clock.
Mooney also had big plays in the first half. Head coach P.J. Fecko credited the Cards’ offensive line for their 16-point halftime lead.
“We caught them in some bad situations where they were sending some people,” Fecko said. “Our guys up front did a good job of picking them off and we were able to crease them for some big yards.”
The line has Vinny Gentile (left tackle), Kyle Clegg (left guard), Vinny Santisi (center), Steve Moser (right guard, Tyler Petrey (right guard) and Alex Maxin (right tackle).
Mooney’s defense opened the game by forcing the Tigers into a three-and-out series. Pat Pelini’s 18-yard punt return set up the Cardinals at the Tigers 34.
The Cardinals needed just five runs to take the lead, with Ray Anderson scoring from the 5.
Hewlett’s long run set up Anderson’s second touchdown.
“I saw the open lane, hit it,” Hewlett said. “I thought I scored but ...”
Page scored on the conversion run for a 14-0 lead.
The Tigers responded with their only scoring drive of the first half. Their big play came when Harris hit Jaylen Harris on the fly at the Mooney 37. The wide receiver raced to the 18 for a 47-yard pickup.
Three plays later, Reggie Harris found Jared Wilson in the end zone to slice the Mooney lead to 14-6.
Mooney responded with another long run. This time, Chris Gruber escaped the Tigers’ defense for a 55-yard touchdown run. A tipped pass in the end zone by Pelini found Sepesy’s arms for two more points for a 22-6 halftime lead.
Hewlett said the Cardinals are pumped with Boardman (1-0 after Friday’s 41-0 win over East) coming to Stambaugh Stadium on Friday.
“We’re going into Boardman Week with a big win,” Hewlett said. “Everyone is confident.”