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Ursuline survives Harding

Staff photo / Joel Whetzel Ursuline running back DeMarcus McElroy (6) stiff arms Harding’s Saad Dukes (21) as Jakylan Irving (10) throws a block for the Irish. McElroy tied Ursuline’s school record for rushing touchdowns in a game with five, and tallied 146 yards on 34 carries.

WARREN — At the going rate, Ursuline coach Dan Reardon is going to need a new heart medication prescription.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Irish escaped with a 1-point victory, this time a 50-49 thriller at Warren G. Harding to improve to 4-1. Last week, the Irish topped Austintown Fitch 48-47.

Ursuline had trailed 49-43 after Harding’s Dalys Jett erupted for a 48-yard touchdown run with 2:23 left to play. But on the ensuing kickoff, Jakylan Irving found a hole on the right side and took off for an 85-yard touchdown to put the Irish back in front.

“I had a feeling something big would happen, so when I saw the open hole I just took it,” Irving said. “It felt good, because I was playing bad today. I had to do something for my team.”

It marked the third time Ursuline has come away with a last-minute victory, as UHS opened the season with a 62-58 heartstopper against Columbus Bishop Hartley. Reardon says he’s proud of his team’s resilience to keep pulling these out.

“I think that’s what I’m most proud of,” he said. “We’ve had three wins that haven’t been pretty. … I’m proud of our kids to find ways to win in these tight situations; it says a lot about their character.”

He added, “The other thing is I think we just have a lot of confidence that it doesn’t matter what the score is, we believe somebody is going to make a play. Our guys just keep playing.”

That was evident throughout the night, as Ursuline often found itself in critical third down situations but nearly always found a way to keep the chains moving.

DeMarcus McElroy was a big part of that, as the tailback pounded his way to 146 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and added 88 yards on five receptions in the passing game, usually on routes into the flats.

His five touchdowns tie Ursuline’s school record, according to Reardon.

Of McElroy, Reardon said, “He has really good patience and works, weaves and finds spots to hit, and then he gets an extra couple yards. It adds up. He’s having a heck of a year, and we’re proud of him. He’s worked hard.”

Irish quarterback Brady Shannon had another big night, throwing for 327 yards and a touchdown on a 19-for-35 performance. Dean Boyd caught four passes for 90 yards, while Marc Manning led the receiving corps with 126 yards and a score on five grabs.

“The big thing is I think Brady has taken a huge step this year in his decision making,” Reardon said. “He does a great job of taking what defenses give us.”

The Irish led 27-21 at halftime and 36-34 going into the fourth quarter. McElroy’s fifth touchdown of the night, a 31-yard scamper, extended that advantage to 43-34 before Harding (1-4) came roaring back.

Jett scored a pair of rushing touchdowns to put Harding in front 49-43, his first one from 5 yards out and the other the 48-yard score that preceded Irving’s kickoff return.

Jett finished with 129 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and added 245 yards and three touchdowns in the air.

Tyriq Ivory had another explosive night for the Raiders, as he caught six passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns, including a 77-yarder when Harding faced a 1st-and-24. Dom Foster added 106 yards and a score on four catches.

Friday’s result marked another narrow loss for Harding, who fell to Massillon 49-46 last week and lost to Hudson 17-10 earlier in the year.

“We just have to keep fighting and pounding the rock,” Harding head coach Steve Arnold said. “Ultimately, just when you think ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ you hit the next one and you have a beautiful diamond. So we just have to keep pounding the rock.”

It also marked the second year in a row Ursuline and Harding have come down to the wire. The Raiders escaped the 2020 matchup with a 28-24 win courtesy of a last-minute rushing touchdown.

“Last year, we didn’t make that one play, and this year we did,” Reardon said. “We have great games against these guys, and I have a ton of respect for (Harding’s) players, coaches and their program. I spent six great years (at Harding) early in my career, and I have nothing but love for the city of Warren.”

The Irish take on Chaney next week, while the Raiders visit Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.

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