Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary came into the game with a freshman quarterback, so Cardinal Mooney came into the game with confidence.
But Mooney needed Ray Anderson’s recovery of a muffed punt to give the Cardinals some momentum toward a 31-16 victory at Stambaugh Stadium.
Things looked bleak after Justin Sampson’s 82-yard kickoff return just seconds into the second half to put the Irish up, 16-7.
“I went down [downfield] and saw the muff, but I didn’t think I was going to land on it,” Anderson said. “Then I dove on the ground and bear-crawled a couple yards to reach the ball and held it as tight as I could with my eyes closed.”
His recovery set up quarterback Antonio Page’s 3-yard touchdown run that pulled Mooney within, 16-14, with 6:27 remaining in the third quarter.
Anderson’s recovery was the first of four second-half Mooney turnovers.
The Cardinals (3-1) out-gained the visiting Irish (2-2), 241-48, with 57 offensive plays to SVSM’s 40.
However, Mooney trailed at halftime, 10-7.
“We had all the turnovers and penalties in the first half that put us in a tough situation going into halftime,” Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said. “But the upside to that — despite turning it over — was that we were moving the ball.”
Of SVSM’s 10 first-half points, three came on a field goal and the Irish touchdown was on Brandon Bischof’s 84-yard kickoff return — scoop-and-score style.
“That was encouraging,” Fecko said of the visitors’ slim three-point lead, but then SVSM went ahead, 16-7, on Justin Sampson’s 82-yard kickoff return just 14 seconds into the second half.
“That put us in a difficult situation, but we were able to — with the help of our seniors and leaders pulling everyone together — flipping the momentum in our favor at that time.”
With senior quarterback Donte Taylor hurt in last week’s 27-7 loss to Canada Prep of Ontario, SVSM first-year coach Marcus Wattley had to go with his next best man at the position: freshman Luke Lindsay.
“[Donte] got hurt last week and I had to hold him out,” Wattley said of the 6-3, 215 Taylor. “Luke [Lindsay] was the next best option we had,” the coach said of the 6-2, 190-pound Lindsay. “He has a high IQ and we have confidence in him, but we’ve got to get him help,” Wattley said. “We tried to simplify [the offense] for him, but we didn’t execute and had some missed opportunities,” the coach said of several dropped passes.
“He has a bright future ahead of him and I think he’ll be successful throughout his career,” Fecko said of Lindsay.
Of his own quarterback, Fecko said, “There were some situations when he threw some nice completions and some times when he pulled the ball down and took off for big yards and first downs for us,” Fecko said of Page, who was Mooney’s leading rusher with 83 yards on 15 attempts. “His decision-making was good throughout the game.”
Alex Sepesy had back-to-back interceptions near the end to help seal the win for the Cards.
“It was a rough first half and we came out sluggish, but we made some adjustments at halftime and the coaches put us where we needed to be, we executed and then had great momentum,” the 5-10, 215-pound senior linebacker said. In a 49-23 loss to SVSM in 2015, Sepesy said he was a lineman on defense.