LINESVILLE – On a chilly Friday evening, the Titusville Rockets and Conneaut Area Eagles squared off in the inaugural matchup of their all-time series. Unfortunately for the locals, it was the hosts who made the better first impression.
The Eagles relentless ground attack and timely passing game proved too much for the Rockets en route to a 42-6 Region 8 victory for Conneaut Area.
The school known as CASH deposited 205 total rushing yards on 35 carries, including 159 yards from Max Lewandowski, who tallied touchdown runs of 59 and 12 yards. The Eagles’ dual-threat quarterback, Nathan Bortnick, needed only eight completions on 11 attempts to garner 169 yards through the air, connecting on scores of 28, 32 and 52 yards. The 6-foot, 2-inch senior also compiled 35 yards on the ground, including a 1-yard touchdown
Titusville, on the other hand, was forced to try and find success through the air. Exactly a week after tossing a career-high in passing yards, Garrett Knapp, again, reached new heights with 210 effective yards, highlighted by a 61-yard catch and score by fellow junior Antonio Malave.
Despite the locals’ high marks in the passing game, they still found themselves coming up empty on several productive drives, something head coach Bryan Baldwin pointed out immediately after the game.
“We had a lot of missed opportunities,” explained Baldwin. “We were able to move the ball, but we could not punch it in.”
After Conneaut Area found the end zone on their initial possession, Titusville took over from the Eagles 41. A couple short plays left the Rockets facing an early 4th-and-1. On the ensuing hand-off, Knapp faked the exchange with Kolin Baker before taking the ball himself up the left sideline for 31 yards and a fresh set of downs. However, a costly sack and an unsuccessful fourth-down conversion gave the pigskin back to the home side.
Later on, in the second quarter, trailing 28-0, the locals set up shop from their opponents 46, swiftly moving up the field with back-to-back completions from Knapp to Brock Covell to put the offense just outside the red zone. Following a short third-down conversion, the Rockets took a shot to the end zone, but the pass intended for Covell was met by a duo of Conneaut Area defenders, one of whom coming away with the interception.
The second half featured a pair of impressive drives for the visitors, the first of which starting at the opposite 31 yard line. Knapp opened the six-minute drive with three consecutive completions to three different receivers, including back-to-back first down passes to Ashton Burleigh and Malave. Despite a subsequent incompletion, the Rockets continued to move the ball up their end of the field. Another chain-moving connection to Covell set up a brace of short runs by Sebastian Titus. Eventually, after 10 plays and 66 yards, Titusville found themselves inside the red zone for the first time of the evening. Alas, the Eagles defense stood their ground, forcing the Rockets to turn the ball over on downs.
The hosts would notch their only score on the following drive, and after both sides traded three-and-outs, Titusville regained possession for one last push.
The locals maintained their aerial brigade, starting with back-to-back passes from Knapp to Burleigh and Malave for a combined 12 yards, then following a three-yard pickup from Baker on the ground, Knapp targeted Covell for eight yards and another first down for Titusville. Three plays later, Knapp stood shotgun and quickly fired a pass to his left, finding Malave who was met by a flock of Eagles. However, just when it seemed that the play would be foiled then and there, the junior receiver slipped the initial tackle and broke free up the Titusville sideline, streaking to the house for a Rockets touchdown. It’s the second straight outing that Knapp and Malave have connected for six points, both of which totaling over 60 yards.
Covell and Malave paced the receiving core for Titusville, recording 95 and 93 yards, respectively.
Even with the big marks in the passing game, coach Baldwin still would like to see his team improve on the ground.
“I would like to balance a little more run in there and be able to run the ball more,” said Baldwin. “But we take what we can get, and they were giving us the pass.”
The Rockets’ postseason hopes took a serious blow with Friday night’s loss, and the boys face a challenging Week 4 opponent in Oil City next Friday night.
“Oil City is going to be a tough game,” stressed Baldwin. “We just need to keep the mentality going and keep working on our game. We know it can work. We still have not been able to put that whole game together on the field.”
The locals will, however, return home for the first time since the season opener, giving the Titusville and surrounding community another chance to see the team in action. Kick off against the Oilers is scheduled for 7 p.m.Xxxx