Struthers defense locks down Liberty
Leopards didn’t run one offensive play in third quarter
By BOB ETTINGER
Football coaches everywhere swear that the best defense is to limit the time his opponent has the ball.
Struthers took that concept to an entirely new level as the Wildcats ground down the clock through the running game and didn’t allow Liberty to run a single offensive play in the third quarter in dropping the Leopards, 41-8, on Friday night at Leopard Stadium.
Photo Gallery: Struthers vs Liberty
The Wildcats (1-0) scored on all three of their offensive possessions and recovered a pair of fumbles on Liberty kick returns in the third period in racking up their ninth straight regular-season win. Struthers forced a third fumble after its third score, but the Leopards recovered.
“I’ve never been part of a game where a team didn’t have one possession [in a quarter],” Struthers coach Curt Kuntz said. “That’s good defense when they don’t get one snap. When the clock is running, good things happen.”
The Leopards (0-1) didn’t run a single offensive play while Struthers snapped the ball 23 times. Of those 23 plays, 19 were running plays on which they 4.3 yards.
“We had zero downs,” Liberty coach Chet Allen said. “It’s like saying we’re allowed to go to the pool but we can’t swim. We were in the game, down 14-0 at the half. And we never had the ball in the third quarter.”
Willie Mitchell started the ball rolling to open the second half as he carried seven times for 44 yards, capping the nine-play march with a 7-yard run for a touchdown to put the Wildcats up, 20-0, with 6:36 to go in the quarter.
“It was the offensive line,” Mitchell said. “There are 22 players. That’s what we do. They give me blocks and I run.”
After Liberty fumbled on the ensuing kick, the Wildcats took to the air for a 26-yard gain as quarterback J.D. Hall hit Nate Richards out of the backfield on a play-action pass. Keyshawn Chism carried five times for 15 yards before having to leave the game with an injury. Mitchell finished off the drive with a 2-yard run for a score to put Struthers ahead, 28-0 with 4:00 to play in the period, following Tyrese Hawkins’ run for the 2-point conversion.
A second fumbled kick return by the Leopards, a 35-yard pass from Hall to Richards on the first play from scrimmage and a 3-yard plunge from Adrian Brown made it 34-0 in favor of the Wildcats with six seconds to go in the third to start the running clock.
Dylan Donnadio scored from the 3 and Alyssa Ferguson’s PAT made it 41-0 for the Wildcats with 3:24 remaining in the game.
Dra Rushton answered with a 65-yard touchdown run to get the Leopards on the board with two minutes to go.
“I was happy we didn’t get shut out,” Allen said.
“It was a team effort,” Mitchell said. “We knew we had to come out and play Struthers football [in the second half]. We wanted to pound it down the field and that’s what we did. [Running hard] is just what I do. I love to run the ball.”
Hall put the Struthers on the board first with a keeper for a touchdown with 9:26 remaining in the opening period. Mitchell set up the score with a run for 29 yards before scoring his first touchdown of the night on a 3-yard run with just under 10 minutes to play in the first half for a 14-0 Wildcats’ advantage.
Rushton finished with 70 yards on 12 carries and was 4 of 8 for 34 yards through the air.