In week 1, Warren G. Harding ran 55 plays (38 passes & 17 runs) to Cleveland Benedictine's 45 (21 passes & 24 runs). Harding gained 261 total yards (221 passing & 40 rushing) to Benedictine's 237 (202 passing & 35 rushing). Harding gained 11 first downs and had the ball for twenty-four minutes while Benedictine gained 7 first downs in twelve minutes of possession. The Raiders held the advantage in every category except the most important one... The final score, which was aided by two monster plays by Benedictine as they struck gold on touchdown passes of 80 and 75 yards from Ronnie Schultz to Marvin Conkle. Despite surrendering 155 passing yards on two plays, the Raiders held Benedictine to 82 yards on their other 43 plays, an average of 1.9 yards per play. Jabari Felton, Marco Paterno, and Mar'kwuan Brown all contributed tackles for losses while Kincaid Tyson recorded a sack. While giving up big plays in a loss always stings, there's plenty to be proud of and build on defensively moving forward.
As for the Raiders' offense, senior quarterback Elijah Taylor continues to rewrite the record books as he completed a Harding record 21 of 38 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns, and one iterception. Both of his six-point tosses went to junior Dom Foster, who finished with career-highs of 8 catches for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns. His final catch, a 7-yard touchdown with 0:05 remaining in the game. moved Taylor past former Harding Raider, but current Las Vegas Raider, Lynn Bowden for first place on the school's all-time touchdown pass list as he now has 29 for his career. He also moved past 1989 alum Clayton Waite for the most passing attempts in school history (485) while adding to his previously-held records of completions (269) and passing yards (3,345). Another great sign for the Raiders was the kicking of freshman Jake Daugherty, who opened up the scoing by hitting on a 24-yard field goal while also calmly nailing both of his extra points. Having an underclassmen on special teams to grow and develop over time may prove to be very beneficial to Harding down the line. For now, Coach Steve Arnold and his staff will look to dwell on the positive and iron out the wrinkles on the field as the season progresses.
If you're familiar with my work, then you know how much I respect the football program over at Youngstown Cardinal Mooney. The eight-time state champion (1973, 1980, 1982, 1987, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2011) has achieved the ultimate success in every division that it;s ever played in, which includes their 1973 Class AAA (equivalent today's Division I) state crown. As the Mahoning Valley's population has declined, the Cardinals maintaioned their excellence and remained a breeding ground for fundamentally sound football players. So much so, a plethora of high school and NCAA coaches spend their adolescent years roaming the legendary halls on Erie Street. That includes several members of the Stoops, Marlowe, and Pelini families, who have all achieved a high level of success on a national level.
Now, in 2020, Carl Pelini was recently hired to replace '93 Mooney alum P.J. Fecko, who went 158-76 while leading the Cardinals to half of their state titles (2004, 2006, 2009, 2011) during his tenure as head coach from 2000 til last season. Despite Fecko's overall success, Mooney is coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in their 63-year history, which likely led to the hire of Pelini in late July. With Mooney being the powerhouse that they are, it was only right for Pelini to open up his tenure against another powerhouse in the Steubenville Big Red, who left Stambaugh Stadium with a 40-13 victory over the Cardinals. Despite the big loss, Mooney never stays down for long and they always play Harding tough, so Pelini will look for his boys to bounce back with a strong performance in Warren this Friday. They'll be led offensively by senior Pat Guerrieri while his primary weapons will be A.J. Pecchia, Michael Pastella, and Zy’ere Rodgers. He'll line up behind a huge line that features the likes of Kerri Hewlett, WIll Skretta, and Carl Farina. Guerrieri and Pastella will join linebacker Michael Pastella to lead the defensive side of the ball.
Week 1 dealt both Harding and Mooney tough losses courtesy of two of the most well known football programs in Ohio history. Sometimes, that's what it takes to look in the mirror, shake the rust off, and really see where you stand among Ohio's elite. When you have the quality of traditions that these schools have, you're going to get your opponents' best shot every time, which is how it should be. Over the years, the Raiders and Cardinals have both flexed their muscles by giving many of Ohio's best football programs some huge losses, including the two schools that defeated them in week 1. Now, it's time for both groups of young men to regroup for what will be the 30th ever meeting on the gridiron between these two historical giants.
Bounce back Harding!