Saturday, September 8, 2018
By BOB ETTINGER
Curt Kuntz and his Struthers football team look to gain opportunities through forcing turnovers each week.
The Wildcats didn’t gain anything tangible from the strategy against Niles on Friday night, but they did use it to limit the Red Dragons’ chances as they pulled away for a 49-28 victory at Laddie J. Fedor Field.
“We preach turnovers to get those extra possessions and not turning the ball over,” Kuntz said. “Last week, we had 550 to 600 yards of offense, but we turned the ball over five times. You’re going to lose against a well-coached team when that happens. When you don’t turn the ball over, you get an extra possession and you’ve got to take advantage.”
After turning a 14-7 deficit at the end of the first quarter into a 20-14 lead with just more than three minutes left in the half behind touchdown runs from Adrian Brown and J.D. Hall, Giovani Farina took a possession away from Niles (0-3) as he ripped the ball from a kick returner’s hands following Hall’s score. The Wildcats (2-1) turned the ball over on downs, but it was with just 1:04 to play in the half and deep inside Red Dragon territory.
“Some things keep haunting us,” Niles coach Jim Parry said. “We’re not good enough to overcome those mistakes. We moved the ball well at times, but we’d get a penalty or turnover. We can’t make those mistakes.”
Struthers scored the first 22 points of the third quarter to put the game out of reach. J.D. Hall connected with Aiden Hall for a 50-yard score to open the second half. Brown continued the onslaught with a 10-yard scoring run and J.D. Hall scored on a quarterback sneak from the 1 to give the Wildcats a 42-14 lead with 2:28 remaining in the third.
“It starts with the line giving J.D. time,” Kuntz said. “We have a kid, [Ryan] Carson, who’s a big receiver himself. He probably gets two sets of eyes on him. We have four other guys and if you double Carson, somebody is going to be open. We’re happy if he gets two sets of eyes.”
Robbie Savin scored on a 44-yard run to close the gates for the Red Dragons with just more than a minute to play in the quarter.
“My hat’s off to them,” Parry said. I think they realized they were in a ballgame. Their kids stepped up. We’ve got to learn that’s what we’ve got to do.”
The Wildcats put one last touchdown on the board when J.D. Hall connected with Alex Cummings on a 9-yard pass with 9:20 to play in the contest.
Zack Leonard closed the scoring with a 1-yard run for Niles.
The Red Dragons opened strong as Leonard hit Trent Johnson for a 22-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game. After Joseph Macciomei responded with an 86-yard run to paydirt for Struthers, Savin put Niles in front with a 76-yard score.
All three touchdowns spanned just 37 seconds of game clock.