There were countless Friday night games in the valley, but there was no other matchup that lived up to the hype than the Warren Harding Panthers (throwback game) versus the Farrell Steelers of Pennsylvania. In their first matchup in over 50-years, Farrell traveled to Mollenkopf Stadium and instilled their dominance and physicality from the very first snap of play.
Warren got on the board first with a 24-yard screen pass from quarterback Drew McKowan to running back Ryan Powell to take the early 7-0 lead. Shortly after, senior kicker Jake Daugherty made a 37-yard field goal and Warren took a double-digital lead heading into the second quarter of action.
The Farrell Steelers rebounded rather quickly with a 49-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Kabron Smith to receiver Julius Phillips Jr. After Warren stalled on the next drive, Farrell's Smith hit Semeir Wade on a 30-yard pass and then running back Juelz Johnson rushed into the endzone from eight yards out, giving the Steelers a lead and shocking all of Warren's fans.
Just before halftime, Warren's new quarterback Chaz Coleman hit new-comer LaMarcus Provitt on a long touchdown after Provitt split the safety, kept his balance, and scampered into the endzone giving Warren the 17-16 lead at halftime.
Penalties and self-inflicted wounds hurt Warren on Friday night and played into the favor of the Steelers. Farrell took a 24-17 lead late in the fourth quarter and with one more drive with under three minutes of play, quarterback Chaz Coleman ended up throwing an interception that ultimately sealed Warren's fate on the Panther throwback night at Mollenkopf.
The Warren G. Harding Raiders are heading to Akron this week to face off against the 2-1 St. Vincent-St. Mary football program led by second-year head coach Terry Cistone. The biggest improvement this week for the Raiders will be to prevent self-inflicted wounds via penalties and sustain longer offensive drives. The goal is to not rely so much on the big plays that occur at times, but to keep driving the football down the field. If the Raiders' offense can improve both in fewer penalties allowed along with more sustained drives, it will help their outcome on Friday versus the Fighting Irish.
St. Vincent-St. Mary Report:
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary named Terry Cistone, a 1979 graduate of the school district, as head coach last season and the results have shown. STVM completed their 2022 tour with a 8-4 record, going 2-1 in the OHSAA playoffs and doubling their win total from the previous season. Cistone is no rookie coach and his family's name has been engraved in the program since he was a young child. Cistone's father John was the head coach of STVM when the Irish won back-to-back State Championships in 1981 and 1982. It seems as if the winning tradition of a school that has won six State Championships is heading back in the right direction.
St. V's is off to a 2-1 start in 2023 after winning in weeks one and two versus two solid opponents in Mansfield Senior (1-2) and Perry (2-1). Last week versus Wayne, Akron lost 11-22 and is looking to get back on track this week at home versus Warren Harding.
St. Vincent-St. Mary Offense:
Offensively, there was a quarterback competition in the summer with Markelle Carter (senior) and junior Gabe Mansel. While Cistone ended up using both signal callers in games a season ago, the competition's goal was to solidify the quarterback position for the entire season. It looks like Carter won the quarterback competition and is off to a hot start.
After starting the season 2-0 for the first time since 2017, Akron lost last Friday against a tough Wayne football program. Running back D.J. Johnson and quarterback Markelle Carter are playing major roles in securing victories week in and week out for the Fighting Irish.
Johnson, who rushed for two touchdowns in week one versus Mansfield Senior, rushed for another two touchdowns in week two. Then last week versus Wayne he rushed for a 31-yard touchdown, their only touchdown on the night. Johnson is up to five rushing touchdowns for the 2023 season and is over 400 yards through three weeks of play. He is a difference maker on the offensive side of the ball and someone to watch for the Harding defense as they look to prevent him from taking over the game on Friday.
Carter, won the QB competition, is a dual threat who makes plays running and throwing the football. He is someone who is more than efficient as the signal caller, and is looking to engrave his name in the record books this season after starting off extremely well.
The offensive line is new after graduating a few athletes from a season ago. Through three weeks it looks like the line is gelling and molding into a strong unit for Johnson, Carter, and the running back by committee backfield.
Overall, St. V's offense is one to watch as they can make plays. Their goal is to establish a rushing attack and run the ball as much as they can. Last year they did just that and it was a long night for the Harding Raiders as they lost the matchup 27-12.
While running backs Santino Harper and D'Anthony Kelker both graduated, the new backs who are playing in this upcoming matchup would love to rush for the same yards or if not more this Friday night at Green Street Stadium / John Cistone Field.
St. Vincent-St. Mary Defense:
Defensively, St. V runs a 4-3 front. When it relates to the back end and the coverages, Akron enjoys running cover 0 at times. Cover 0 is man-to-man with no safety help. The goal in cover 0 is to bring pressure and rely on your athletes who are solid in man-to-man to make plays while still bringing some pressure to disrupt the opposing team's quarterback.
If a team goes Trips Left or Trips Right, they play zone to the Trips side and then lock up the single receiver side in man-to-man. Many schools call this coverage strategy differently so I am not going to put a name amongst this concept. Some names do include Cover 3 Lock, Cloud Lock, etc.
As for the defense as a whole, St. Vincent-St. Mary is relying on some of their top returning players to make plays. Dan and Dave Ajose are both senior defensive ends who are disruptive and can impact the game. Markelle Carter is their safety, Sir Charles Gordon, who we mentioned last season, is back for his senior campaign. He stands at 6-4 185 pounds and is their outside linebacker. Lastly, Mekhi Madison is another outside linebacker who sits at 5-9 170 pounds but don't let his size fool you -- he is extremely physical and dominant on the defensive side of the football and can disrupt opposing quarterbacks.
Make no mistake, even though head coach Terry Cistone mentioned in an interview early in August that the team's biggest struggle may be the offensive and defensive lines, through three games those units have shown more promise than he most likely predicted. Harding is battle tested as their last three games have been against lines who were both physical and big in nature. Harding is used to the level of competition they play and how they must fight to earn every single yard they can.
At a Glance:
Warren Harding Raiders
Head Coach: Steven Arnold
Record: 65-55 (1-2 - 2023)
Years as HC: 12
Record Last Year: 2-8
League: All-American Conference
Defense: 3-4, Multiple
Aug. 18 - Canton McKinley - Loss - 14-33
Aug. 26 - at Akron Buchtel - Win - 20-16
Sept. 1 - Farrell - Loss - 17-24
Sept. 8 - at St. Vincent St. Mary
Sept. 15 - at Ursuline
Sept. 22 - Chaney
Sept. 29 - Boardman
Oct. 6 - at Cardinal Mooney
Oct. 13 - at Massillon
Oct. 20 - Austintown Fitch
At a Glance:
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
Head Coach: Terry Cistone
Record: 10-5 (Includes 2-1; 2023)
Years as HC: 2
Record Last Year: 8-4 (2-1 in Playoffs)
Aug. 8 - Mansfield Senior - Win - 35-14
Aug. 25 - at Perry - Win - 16-14
Sept. 1 - at Wayne - Loss - 11-22
Sept. 8 - Warren G. Harding
Sept. 15 - at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin
Sept. 22 - Walsh Jesuit
Sept. 29 - Ursuline
Oct. 6 - at Harvest Prep
Oct. 13 - Villa Angela-St Joseph
Oct. 20 - Benedictine
The Raiders will face off against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary on Friday, September 8th at 7:00 p.m.
Sold at the gate and/ or through Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's athletic website.