It was a cool Friday night at Mollenkopf Stadium - the wind was blowing, the sun was shining, football weather was in full effect. The atmosphere was electric as Harding welcomed the Chaney Cowboys, who looked to instill their passion and dominance early and often versus Harding.
Chaney scored first on a quarterback read option from several yards out taking a 7-0 lead, which sparked an on-field scuffle from both teams. The Harding athletes did not leave the bench area and after about ten minutes of discussion and calming down the players, the football game returned to play. On the very next drive, quarterback Drew McKowan threw a beautiful deep shot pass to receiver Nau’Jeat Jones for a 41-yard quick strike touchdown. The fireworks began to explode in the air and all was right at that moment in Mollenkopf Stadium.
Harding’s defense and special teams played lights out and the offense did what it needed to do in order to register the second win of the season. Harding’s defense, which I challenged in the last preview article, ended up stepping up to the challenge. The defense got back to their dominance and scored not one but two defensive touchdowns (pick-six), ultimately sealing the deal for the Chaney Cowboys.
The final was 26-7 and the game was called with just over three minutes left to play after yet another on-field scuffle after a late hit out of bounds by a Chaney defender. Harding moved to 2-4 on the season while Chaney dropped to 2-3.
Last season, the Boardman Spartans got off to a hot 4-2 start before dropping their last 4 games, finishing with a 4-6 record, just barely missing the playoffs. Boardman has a 1-5 record this season and is looking to flip the script from a season ago.
Head coach DJ Dota is in his second season in Boardman and is looking to turn around a program who has only one playoff victory in almost two decades (16 years). Dota returns a decent amount of athletes and letter winners from a season ago. While they are not off to the greatest start, they have an explosive offense and it all starts with their senior quarterback Tomas Andujar.
Tomas Andujar had a successful junior campaign after he passed for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for over 600 yards and eight touchdowns. Tomas is an explosive quarterback and a true dual threat that can make plays with his feet along with his arm at any given time.
Other offensive players who can make impacts at any given time include: Zach Haus, Willy Torres, Vince Atwood, Aiden Berg and more.
Last season, Harding prevented Torres from getting anything going in the running game. He finished with 3 carries for 8 yards. While the main running back in the game was a senior in Fernando Ortiz who graduated, their second leading rusher was quarterback Andujar who finished with 12 carries for 15 yards, a 1.2 yard average. We cannot forget to mention that Ortiz finished with 17 carries for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Coach Dota wants to establish the run early and did just that with Ortiz leading the way last year. Expect the same recipe this season in trying to keep the ball away from the Harding offense by running the football right at a Harding defense. This is a defense which has struggled in several games this year versus the ground game.
Overall, Boardman runs a spread offense and they enjoy running motions to try to keep the defense honest. They run a good amount of RPOs (run-pass-option) and their passing concepts include: Slants, Flood concepts, Hitches and more. Their favorite running play is zone left and zone right along with throwing in their RPOs to keep everyone honest. Bubbles are expected along with a majority of the formations being Trips Left/ Trips Right. Their second favorite formation is 2x2 (Twins). Boardman has returned several offensive lineman from a season ago and similar to what Harding is looking to do this week and every week in creating a running game early, Boardman’s identity is to run the football so look for them to do that through their favorite zone running scheme and plays.
Defensively, Boardman’s base defense is a 4-2-5 defensive front and they run a multitude of coverages including cover 0, 2, 3, 4, and prevent when needed.
Note: Boardman also runs other defensive fronts/ coverages and adjusts to their opponent like every defense does. Other defensive fronts include 3-3, 5-1, 5-2, and others. However, their “base” or the one they use a decent amount is the 4-2-5.
Let us discuss the positives and negatives within the Boardman Spartans defense. One negative is that within a 4-2-5 defensive scheme, there are only two linebackers in the box, and then you have your 4 down lineman equaling a total of six athletes to stop the run. If the offense can block properly and account for the two linebackers, expect an opportunity for Harding to gain some decent yards in the ground attack on Friday night.
One positive within the 4-2-5 defensive scheme is that you can disguise your backend (secondary) and run every coverage imaginable. The ultimate goal is to disrupt the opposing quarterback by confusing them; however, it can also confuse the actual Boardman players as well. That leads us to our last negative and that is it could confuse the Spartan players as well. Busted coverages and missed assignments/ technique issues can pose an issue for Boardman as they look to prevent the Harding receivers from gaining big chunk plays. Overall, Boardman has allowed 209 points this season and it doesn't get easier with their upcoming opponents.
For the Warren G. Harding Raiders to be successful this Friday night it will have to be up to the offensive line and the running backs to establish a running game early. With the 4-2-5 defense that Boardman employs, along with their inability to tackle at times in the open space, I expect chunk yards in the ground game with the running back by committee Raiders.
Raiders running back Antonio Smith, who is coming off a solid performance versus Chaney, will look to keep his momentum this week versus Boardman. Last week, Smith carried the ball 15 times for 84 yards and a touchdown. Izzy Reynolds carried the ball 7 times for a total of 31 yards. Expect both running backs to establish the running game early and pound the rock as Harding looks to instill their offensive willpower early.
At a Glance:
Warren Harding Raiders
Head Coach: Steven Arnold
Record: 66-57 (2-4 - 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 - Loss - 28-42
Sept. 15 - at Ursuline - Loss - 20-56
Sept. 22 - Chaney - Win - 26-7
Sept. 29 - Boardman
Oct. 6 - at Cardinal Mooney
Oct. 13 - at Massillon
Oct. 20 - Austintown Fitch
At a Glance:
Head Coach: DJ Dota
Record: 5-11 (2nd Season in Boardman)
Years as HC: 2 (Boardman)
Record Last Year: 4-6
Defense: 4-2-5, Multiple, (5-1, 5-2, 3-3, etc)
Aug. 18 - at Kenston - Loss - 13-50
Aug. 25 - Lake - Loss - 31-42
Sept. 1 - at Chaney - Loss - 13-21
Sept. 8 - Howland - Win - 37-6
Sept. 15 - at Riverside - Loss - 21-52
Sept. 22 - Cardinal Mooney - Loss - 21-38
Sept. 29 - at Warren G. Harding
Oct. 6 - at Dover
Oct. 13 - Austintown Fitch
Oct. 20 - Canfield
The Raiders will face the Boardman Spartans at Mollenkopf Stadium on Friday, September 29th at 7:00 p.m.
*NO Cash Options at the Gate. You MUST order online at the link below.