MEADVILLE – “We got beat up!”
These words from Bryan Baldwin summed up Titusville’s latest blemish on the football field. In Friday night’s Region 8 action, Meadville, again, utilized a dominant ground attack en route to a 62-7 victory over the visiting Rockets, the second win for the Bulldogs over their Route 27 foe in three weeks.
After compiling 386 yards on 32 carries in week one, Meadville hit the ground 38 times for 402 yards, including 147 from Khalon Simmons, who tallied touchdown runs of 5, 19, 44 and 65 yards. Fellow juniors Tamoj Lyons-Glover and Griffin Buzzell contributed 159 combined rushing yards, 70 and 89 yards, respectively. Buzzell chipped in one rushing score from 2 yards out, while Lyons-Glover was responsible for three touchdowns, two on the ground of 9 and 16 yards, and a 55-yard catch and score.
On top of converting a touchdown pass on his only attempt, Meadville quarterback Sam Burchard also added six points on an 8-yard keeper.
The ‘Dogs came out of the gate with a head of steam, having lost the previous week at Oil City. After returning the opening kickoff down to the Titusville 14 yardline, the hosts needed only two plays to secure an early 7-0 lead. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Meadville kicker Chaz Chambers appeared to unintentionally send a dribbler of the tee that, after traveling the required yardage, was recovered by the Bulldogs at the 50 yardline, setting up Burchard’s lone pass to Lyons-Glover.
“We were fired up to play,” said Baldwin. “But we made mistakes off the bat and we let them score.”
Meadville’s offense was not the only side clicking as the Bulldogs’ defense kept the locals’ offense under control. Titusville had a difficult time trying to work the ball up the field, settling for minus-30 yards of offense over its first three possessions.
Trailing 34-0 with 5:26 remaining in the first quarter, the Rockets began to string together a promising drive that included short runs from Kolin Baker and a 5-yard pass from Garrett Knapp to Brock Covell to set up a 4th-and-1 opportunity that came up just short.
On Titusville’s subsequent three possessions, the locals started to build some poise through the air.
On the Rockets first drive of the second quarter, Knapp connected back-to-back first-down passes to Antonio Malave and Covell for 10 yards each, but the Meadville defense stuffed Titusville’s subsequent plays on the ground to force a turnover on downs.
Following another Bulldog score to extend the deficit to 48-0, the locals went back to the air, attempting seven passes on seven plays on their next drive, but unfortunately, Knapp’s 20-yard completion to Hunter W. Titus was the only positive takeaway from the possession.
With Meadville taking over, the Rocket’s defense stepped up to force their first three-and-out of the ball game. Facing 4th-and-1 from the Titusville 43 yardline, the Bulldogs were caught by Joe Jacobson in the backfield for a loss of 11 yards and a positive takeaway for the locals.
The home side would add an additional score before the end of the half, activating the running clock for the entire second half.
“Coming out of the break, we just couldn’t put our heads down,” said Baldwin. “We were just focused on coming out and working on what we can do.”
Early in the fourth quarter, the Rockets found a quick spark in the offense, but it started with the defense. Threatening in the red zone, Meadville second-string quarterback Gavin Longstreth sent a strike towards the end zone that was intercepted by Hunter W. Titus and returned to the 11 yardline. One play later, Knapp slung a pass to his right side, narrowly flying past a set of defending hands and into the catching gloves of Malave who slipped around the corner and down the sideline for an 89-yard touchdown.
Knapp finished the evening with a season-high 175 passing yards on nine completions, while Malave totaled 126 receiving yards on just four catches. On the ground, Titusville staged 22 yards on 22 carries, despite a team-best 32 yards from Knapp.
Titusville is back on the road next Friday when they travel to Conneaut Area.
“We need to be mentally prepared to come out and play a full football game,” explained Baldwin when asked about the team moving forward to next week.