COCHRANTON – All didn’t go smoothly for Titusville Friday in Cochranton, but the effort was enough for a 21-0 blanking of the Cardinals that moved the Brown and Gold to 3-0 on the season.
Staving off some sloppy play, including 40 penalty yards in the first half, Titusville got a lead and never was seriously threatened by the hosts as the Brown and Gold’s win sets the stage for a big Region 6 matchup Friday when potent Mercyhurst Prep invades Carter Field.
The loss kept Cochranton winless, at 0-3.
The THS defense allowed only 50 yards all night, and the Cardinals never advanced the ball past the THS 34 the whole ball game. Meanwhile, Titusville scored touchdowns in the first, second and fourth cantos, and used more a mix of the run and pass to set up its scores.
Early on, Cochranton made life tough for Rocket workhorse running back Charlie Nicholson. The THS senior entered the game fresh off a pair of 200-yard games, but the Cards shut down the run in the early going. Nicholson, who ended with a respectable 155 yards and two touchdowns, didn’t find much running room in the game’s opening frame.
Also, THS was flagged for 40 yards in penalties in the game’s opening 24 minutes, including back-to-back 10-yarders that effectively stopped a scoring drive late in the second quarter. This fact was somewhat concerning to the coaching staff.
“We got sloppy at times, and that is something we can’t afford to do next week (against Mercyhurst Prep),” said Titusville coach Bryan Baldwin. “Give Cochranton credit for stopping us early and for taking some chances.”
Cochranton failed to move the ball on the game’s opening possession and stuffed Nicholson for short gains on Titusville’s first two plays when it had the ball for the first time.
Facing a third and long, THS went to the pass with Landon Palma hauling in a short strike from Garrett Knapp, and the senior speedster did the rest — going nearly untouched 64 yards for the touchdown that put Titusville on the board for a 7-0 lead at the 8:37 mark.
That lead held until the THS ground game got going on its second possession of the second quarter. This time, it was all Nicholson, with the senior capping off the 7-play, 74-yard drive on a nifty 27-yard touchdown run.
There, Nicholson evaded a tackle near the line of scrimmage before finding daylight on the right sideline, with the senior outrunning the Cochranton defense to the corner of the end zone for the TD.
“We found success when we went to the trap and that opened up our run game a bit,” Baldwin said.
The THS passing game, at times, bailed out the struggling run game. Three times the Brown and Gold converted long third downs on pass plays as Cochranton rarely pressed Titusville’s receivers. Sophomore Garrett Knapp went 5 of 9 for 162 yards in the first half alone, and finished the game with a season-high 193 yards with one TD and no interceptions.
Nicholson later added an 8-yard TD run for the Rockets’ last score with 10:14 left to play, before Baldwin put in the reserves for the rest of the game.
Knapp also spread the ball out to four different receivers, with Isaac Jackson leading the way with four grabs for 71 yards. His 17-yard catch between two Cochranton defenders set up THS deep in Cards territory just before the half. However, the home team stymied the drive, forcing a fumble on fourth down to end the threat.
Titusville (3-0, 1-0 R-6) finds itself in a similar position as it did in 2016, the last time a Rocket team started a season at that mark. A chance to make a statement in the region looms when the Lakers visit town next week, with the winner gaining position in the league standings.
“They may not be as potent as they had been, but you can’t give them too many chances,” Baldwin said of Mercyhurst Prep, who THS hasn’t beaten since 2016 when the Rockets finished atop the region. “We know we have to be prepared.”