COCHRANTON — After shutting out Lakeview at home in their season opener last week, the Maplewood Tigers picked up right where they left off in the first Region 2 contest of the year at Cochranton.
Quarterback JD McFadden broke the Crawford County all-time career passing record with 186 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Kaleb Donor rushed for three more scores and 147 yards. Meanwhile, Maplewood’s defense picked off three passes and the Tigers blanked the Cardinals, 47-0.
Offensively, Maplewood showed off its dynamic game with the run and the pass. The Tigers amassed 405 total yards combined through the air and on the ground. However, Maplewood got off to a relatively slower start than they would have liked on offense.
After earning the first shot at the ball following the coin toss, the Tigers picked up a first down on a 14-yard keeper by McFadden for the game’s first new set of downs. However, the drive stalled, partly due to a 9-yard loss on a bad snap, and the Tigers were forced to punt.
“I thought we were a little sloppy in the beginning, but we got over that,” Maplewood coach Bryan Borkovich said. “We just have to take care what they give us. If they’re going to put guys in the box, we have to be able to throw, and vice versa. It’s a great group, and we have to keep pushing to get better each week.”
Last week, the offense set the tone early by scoring on their first four possessions. On Friday, it was the defense’s turn to grab the early momentum.
On Cochranton’s first offensive play of the game, quarterback Wyatt Barzak looked to hand the ball off at his own 18-yard line, but he was stood up near the line of scrimmage. That’s when Maplewood senior lineman Bryan Kelly literally ripped the ball out of Barzak’s hands, took over possession of the pigskin and made the 18-yard trek to the end zone to put the Tigers on the board.
“I just went in there and (Barzak) was fumbling around trying to hand off the ball, so I just grabbed it,” Kelly said. “I’d say I ran, but nobody else would say that. The rest of my life is just down hill from here.”
Tigers kicker Connor Palmiero made the extra point try — the first of his varsity career, and the first of three he made during the game — and Maplewood never looked back after going ahead, 7-0, with 9:12 left in the opening quarter.
From there, Maplewood’s offense got back on track and quickly put the game out of reach. The Tigers scored on each of their next five drives, three of them on the first play of the series.
Donor scored on runs of 53 and 21 yards, while McFadden connected with Jesse McFadden for a 68-yard score and Levi Butryn on a 53-yard touchdown pass. Jesse McFadden also chipped in a 16-yard rushing touchdown as the Tigers took a commanding 40-0 lead into the intermission.
“Every week we just keep working on things,” Borkovich said. “I know it’s a coaching cliche, but we have to be good in all facets of the game. I’ve always been excited for this group, and I’m glad they’re making the most it of. We just have to keep making the most of it, one week at a time.”
Donor capped off the scoring with a 65-yard run on Maplewood’s first play of the second half.
Meanwhile, the Tigers defense made life difficult for the Cardinals offense.
Maplewood made a big stand when Cochranton tried to move the chains on a 4th-and-4 play at the Maplewood 48. Cardinals running back Dustin Miller was met in the backfield by Maplewood’s Shawn Weigle to end the series and force a turnover on downs.
Over the course of the game, the Maplewood secondary — self-acclaimed as the “No Fly Zone” — intercepted Barzak twice and backup quarterback Bryce McDonough on his only pass attempt. Butryn hauled in two of those picks, while JD McFadden snatched the third. The three interceptions were an addition to the three balls that Cochranton put on the ground via the fumble as Maplewood earned its second straight shutout and 40-plus point win.
“I’m not trying to bury anybody, but we can’t be giving up points,” Borkovich said. “Last year, we were bad in the second half giving up points. I want the kids to want the shutout. Are we going to shut out everybody? Absolutely not, but I want them to strive for it.”
King of the county
JD McFadden needed only 144 passing yards to break former Conneaut Eagles passer Hunter Merritt’s Crawford County record of 4,025 career passing yards set at the end of the 2015 season. Maplewood’s fourth-year starter broke the record in the second quarter when he connected with his brother, Jesse, on a 46-yard pass that helped set up Donor’s second rushing touchdown of the night.
“It’s feels unreal,” McFadden said of holding the new record. “It’s four years of hard work paying off.”
Although McFadden was happy to break the record, he felt even happier about beating his region foe.
“(The win) feels probably better than having the record,” he said. “In our first region game of the season, we came out and showed all of the other teams what is going to happen to the rest of them.”
McFadden now has 4,067 passing yards and 43 touchdown passes up to this point in his career.
“It’s a great thing for him,” Borkovich said. “Hunter Merritt was a great quarterback, and it’s nice to pass a kid like that and leave a legacy. I’m glad for him, and he’s earned it.”
Maplewood (2-0 overall, 1-0 Region 2) will head to Mercer County next week to face the West Middlesex Big Reds in a non-region game that could prove to be a future playoff matchup. West Middlesex was the runner-up in the District 10 Class 1A playoffs last year, and beat Maplewood, 41-27, in comeback fashion in Guys Mills.
“You have to be ready to go down to Mercer County, and we know how they feel about us,” Borkovich said. “You could be the best team up north, but to them it doesn’t matter until you beat them, especially down there. They’re well coached and they made it to the district final last year. Last year, we had the lead in the fourth quarter, but we made stupid mistakes. I think the kids are ready for it this time.”
Maplewood 47, Cochranton 0
Maplewood 27 13 7 0—47
Cochranton 0 0 0 0—0
M — Bryan Kelly 18-yard fumble return (Connor Palmiero kick), 9:12.
M — Kaleb Donor 53-yard run (kick blocked), 6:01.
M — Jesse McFadden 68-yard pass from JD McFadden (Donor run), 4:09.
M — Jesse McFadden 16-yard run (kick failed), 0:17.
M — Levi Butryn 52-yard pass from JD McFadden (Palmiero kick), 8:13.
M — Donor 21-yard run (kick failed), 1:40.
M — Donor 65-yard run (Palmiero kick), 7:47.
PASSING — M, McFadden 5-9, 186 yards, 2 TDs. C, Wyatt Barzak 3-9, 17 yards, 2 INT; Bryce McDonough 0-1, 0 yards, 1 INT.
RUSHING — M, Donor 6-147, 3 TDs; Sam Gilberto 3-35, Jesse McFadden 2-31, TD; JD McFadden 4-25; Sam Wright 5-18; TEAM 4-(-37). C, Jon Gallo 17-46; Kaden Tatters 5-33; Dustin Miller 6-12; Barzak 4-2; TEAM 1-0.
RECEIVING — M, Jesse McFadden 2-114, TD; Butryn 2-72, TD; Clay Cox 1-0. C, Stephen Martinec 1-6; Miller 1-6; Kendrick Hochstetler 1-5.