Page turner: Cardinal Mooney edges Harding on late TD, PAT
By BOB ETTINGER
There are lessons to be learned from losing, especially in a heartbreaker as Cardinal Mooney did a week ago. It didn’t take long for the Cardinals to apply the lesson as they toppled Warren Harding, 15-14, Friday night at Stambaugh Stadium.
“I think, definitely, when you get into these kinds of games, the guys are able to condition themselves to it,” Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said. “They know there’s a sense of urgency. They know they have to pay attention to detail because any play can be that play. They’ve got to keep their mental edge.”
The Raiders grew in the loss.
“I was proud of the guys,” Harding coach Steve Arnold said. “They fought. They played hard and they played for each other. They came up a point short. We did come together and grow up a little tonight.”
The Cardinals (4-4) trailed, 14-8, and had fumbled inside the Harding 10 on their previous possession before forcing a punt and taking over at the Raiders’ 44 with 6:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. Nine running plays later, Antonio Page punched it in from the 1 to knot the score with 3:34 to play. Andrew Philibin’s PAT was good for the slim advantage.
“It was big,” Page said. “Our offensive line stepped it up. Andre McCoy and Dan Simko were running hard. They were getting four or five yards every time they carried the ball. [Scoring the touchdown to tie] felt really good. I was happy to take it in for the victory.”
“Those guys up front did a good job banging away,” Fecko said. “There were no secrets to anything. I thought going in it would be important for each side to establish the line of scrimmage. Thankfully, on all those [second-half] drives, we were able to do that.”
The Raiders (1-6) used a 10-play, 80-yard march that took 3:40 off the game clock to take the lead with 54 seconds to play in the third period after Mooney’s 27-yard field goal attempt fell short. Kayron Adams had a 32-yard run on the drive and later scored from the two to put Harding in front, 12-8. He ran in the two-conversion try for the 14-8 advantage.
“We were sustain blocks and running hard,” Arnold said. “Against a good defense, that was a great drive for our guys.”
Brennan Olesh set up the Cardinals’ initial score with a blocked punt at the Harding six. The Raiders’ punter fell on the ball, but Mooney took over at the six. Dan Simko pounded it in from there with 15 seconds to play in the first period. Nico Marchionda hit Cheriff Jamison with a pass for the two-point conversion after the snap was wide.
“That was really the whole (punt return unit),” Fecko said. “Everybody was in the gap they were supposed to be in and Olesh did a god job defeating his blocker, getting to where he needed to be and making a play on the ball. [Scoring there] was really the key. You can’t squander that opportunity.”
Geivonni Washington got the Raiders within two with a 5-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds remaining before the intermission. The two-point conversion run failed