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Game of the Week

'We battled to the end'

Mohawk (18) vs. New Brighton (28)
Written: Oct 26, 2013
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By Corey J. Corbin

New Castle News

The Mohawk High football team has been known to make a big play or two on special teams.

The Warriors made some key plays on special teams last night, but it was a routine play that ultimately cost them.

Visiting New Brighton shocked Mohawk by returning a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown as the first-half clock expired and then held off a furious Warriors comeback for a 28-18 WPIAL Class AA Midwestern Athletic Conference victory.

“All we’ll remember is the negative one,” Mohawk coach Joe Lamenza said. “That kickoff return with three seconds left was a killer. Special teams have always been a positive for us. We’re usually the ones making plays on special teams. Unfortunately, we gave a big one up and that’s uncharacteristic of us.”

The win propelled the Lions (5-2, 6-3) into third place behind Aliquippa and Beaver Falls in the MAC and eliminated the Warriors (3-4, 3-6) from playoff contention.

“Obviously, it’s not the result we wanted, but I’m proud of the kids,” Lamenza said. “We battled to the end, but it is what it is. It’s a tough loss. We’re satisfied with the progress we made this year, but we’re not satisfied. Every year, these kids have gotten a little better in the conference and the bar was raised again. We’ll build on it next year.”

The Lions struck first when Craig Johnson hauled in a Payton Fath aerial, spun out of a Mohawk arm-tackle and raced 23 yards to the end zone with 4:22 left in the first quarter.

It appeared the score would remain 7-0 at halftime, but Mohawk senior Travis Giardina blocked New Brighton’s punt with under a minute to play in the half and was recovered by Jon Kent at the Lions’ 1.

Michael Kurtz hauled in a Gio Menichino pass from 11 yards out with just over 3 seconds left to pull Mohawk to within 7-6 after the extra point was partially blocked.

Mohawk’s momentum was short-lived when Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for the touchdown and a 14-6 lead as time expired.

“That’s a great way to end the half isn’t it,” New Brighton coach Joe Greco asked rhetorically. “It was electric. Craig’s an electric player.”

A 6-yard scoring strike from Fath to Jesse Sabol in the third quarter and a Fath 7-yard run early in the fourth handed the Lions a 28-6 lead.

From there, it was all Mohawk.

Shane McFarland sparked an otherwise-dormant Warriors offense by covering 89 yards on two runs — the last a 25-yard scoring sprint with 6:22 remaining in the game to pull Mohawk to within 16 at 28-12 after the two-point conversion pass fell harmlessly to the turf.

McFarland finished the game with 121 yards on 15 carries.

“He’s the toughest player I’ve ever coached and that includes my years as a college coach (at Robert Morris),” Lamenza said. “He’s the definition of a Warrior and we’re going to miss him.”

The Warriors defense held on New Brighton’s ensuing possession, forcing the Lions to punt. McFarland made them pay by returning the punt 78 yards for a touchdown. Menichino’s pass on the ensuing two-point conversion, which would have pulled Mohawk to within 28-20, was incomplete.

“We were trying to use up clock,” Greco said. “When you go up 21 points, you try to put the game away — that didn’t happen. We had some fumbles, some breakdowns and No. 24 (McFarland) got a hold of the ball and broke two (long runs). All of a sudden, we were in a game.”

New Brighton’s much-maligned defense stifled Mohawk’s offense through three quarters, forcing six three-and-outs. The Warriors finished the game with 160 yards of total offense with 117 coming in the fourth quarter.

“The kids did a great job,” Greco said. “We had some defensive stands in some clutch situations. We let No. 24 break once, which isn’t bad. He’s a great back. We had a lot of guys make a lot of great plays. We have to step up and be better defensively if we’re going to compete in the playoffs.”

Meanwhile, the typically pass-happy Lions were content to keep the ball on the ground and in the hands of Fath and running back Scott Florence.

Fath led all rushers with 112 yards on 20 carries, while completing 9-of-16 passes for 99 yards. Florence tacked on 103 yards on 24 totes.

“The scouting report says they favor the run over the pass,” Lamenza said. “I think it’s a little misnomer that they favor the pass. Even when (injured starting quarterback Gabe) Greco was healthy, they were running the ball quite a bit. They were spreading the ball out with the run. In the games we had on them, they were 65 percent pass and 35 percent run, so it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before. We just needed to do a better job tackling.”

Giardina, Ricky Malutic and Chris Culley recovered fumbles for Mohawk, while Christian Holmes recovered an onside kick in the fourth quarter.



19 First downs 5

255 Yards Rushing 125

22 Yards Lost 25

233 Net Rushing 100

16 Passes Attempted 17

9 Passes Completed 7

0 Passes Intercepted 0

139 Yards Passing 60

372 Total Yards 160

3-3 Fumbles-Lost 1-0

2-44 Punts-Average 5-33.8

5-19 Penalties-Yards 6-23

NEW BRIGHTON 7 7 7 7 — 28

MOHAWK 0 6 0 12 — 18

Scoring plays

NEW BRIGHTON — Craig Thompson, 23-yard pass from Payton Fath (Gavin Pritchard kick).

MOHAWK — Michael Kurtz, 11-yard touchdown pass from Gio Menichino (kick blocked).

NEW BRIGHTON — Thompson, 90-yard kickoff return (Pritchard kick).

NEW BRIGHTON — Jesse Sabol, 6-yard pass from Fath (Pritchard kick).

NEW BRIGHTON — Fath, 7-yard run (Pritchard kick).

MOHAWK — Shane McFarland, 25-yard run (pass failed).

MOHAWK — McFarland, 78-yard punt return (pass failed).
Mohawk 0 6 0 12 0 18
New Brighton 7 7 7 7 0 28
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