Blue Devils’ ground game tames Tigers
By ERIC FORTUNE
Since a loss to Columbiana in Week 2 when an 18-point lead wasn’t enough, the McDonald High School football team has worked on finishing drives.
It showed Friday with a key 14-play, 65-yard drive that ate 7:24 off the clock in a 44-31 victory over Springfield.
“We’ve been focusing on playing hard on every play,” McDonald coach Dan Williams said. “When we played Columbiana, we didn’t. We let up on plays. We didn’t play to the whistle on plays.
”We promote getting better each week. I think you can see this team doing that.”
That drive came after the Tigers took a 24-22 lead on a 68-run from Luke Snyder.
McDonald (4-1, 2-0 Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference) held Springfield (2-3, 1-1) to a negative one yard on the ensuing two possessions. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils racked up 154 yards and 22 unanswered points.
The Blue Devils were paced by Alex Cintron (165 yards, three touchdowns), Josh Celli (140 yards, two touchdowns) and Cameron Tucker (104 yards, one touchdown). “With the Wing-T, I just think it is so hard to simulate in practice,” Springfield coach Sean Guerriero said. “Dan does a great job. The lineman are coming off the ball.
“I knew between Cintron and Celli, you had two great backs. We knew it would be a challenge. Obviously, you try to slow them down. I know we had them in a couple of bad spots, but we just couldn’t get them out of their flow.”
McDonald ran the ball 60 times between the three of them for 409 yards.
“Ball control — that’s been our game plan through these first five games,” Williams said. “We’ve averaged maybe 360 to 390 rushing a game.
“Our offensive line is really doing a nice job. We have three dangerous running backs. They all block for one another also. That’s a difference-maker.”
Williams felt ball control was necessary to keep Springfield quarterback Brannon Brungard off the field as much as possible as the Tigers responded each time the Blue Devils scored early.
After the Blue Devils took a 6-0 advantage on Celli’s 1-yard run less than two minutes into the game, the Tigers responded with an 11-play, 64-yard drive. Brungard found Randy Walters on a fade in the end zone to give Springfield a 7-6 lead.
McDonald retook the lead on Celli’s second touchdown, this time from 8 yards out to make it 14-7.
Two minutes later, the Tigers tied the game at 14 all after a 25-yard run from Snyder.
Cintron’s 2-yard run capped off a 13-play, 65-yard drive that took six minutes off the clock as McDonald went ahead 22-14 with 37 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Tigers had a few chances as McDonald penalties put the Blue Devils in bad situations, but each time the Blue Devils had an answer.
The Tigers scored a field goal right before the half to make it 22-17.
“We talk about finishing,” Williams said. “We let one go early in the year when we didn’t finish. We’ve been on them harping it. We played till the end. To win these type of games, you have to play a full football game. The kids did that tonight.”