MENTOR - It took a little less than 8 minutes for the Warren G. Harding Raiders and Mentor Cardinals to put a combined 27 points on the scoreboard.
By then it was obvious a shootout had broken out, which isn't what Raiders coach Steve Arnold wanted. Not with the Cardinals holding the best weapon on the field in sharpshooter Mitch Trubisky, a University of North Carolina-bound quarterback.
Trubisky produced 451 yards of offense and led the Cardinals to scores on eight of nine possessions in a 45-35 win in a Division I, Region 1 first-round playoff game Saturday. Trubisky was 17-of-25 through the air for 356 yards and five touchdowns, and he added one rushing touchdown as the Cardinals generated 557 yards.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Warren G. Harding running back LeShun Daniels (28) hits a hole against Mentor on Saturday night. The Raiders lost, 45-35.
Arnold figured the Raiders (9-2) might have a chance if they limited the 10-1 Cardinals to 31 points. Mentor had one more than that at halftime in leading, 32-14.
"Not only is he (Trubisky) masterful in running their offense and has a good arm, you saw he was able to keep drives alive with his feet," Arnold said. "At the pace that they go, your D-linemen get tired, so we couldn't get a pass rush on him. The times you do flush him, it's third-and-5 and he picks up 6 with his legs. That's kind of demoralizing."
The Raiders showed they were up to the challenge with a masterful 10-play, 81-yard drive to start the game. The march included the powerful runs of senior LeShun Daniels, who had 216 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries, and the short, play-action passes of quarterback Lamar Carmichael, who hit tight end Hjalte Froholdt on a 12-yard touchdown pass.
The Cardinals answered with a seven-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky to Corey Plavcan. Mike Muzic's point-after kick tied the score at 7-7.
The Cardinals scored on each of their five first-half possessions. The Raiders needed to match that output, but they were forced to punt twice and were stopped twice on downs.
"There were a couple of possessions where we had the ball and were going in, and we shot ourselves in the foot," Arnold said. "The one possession we were going in and we have an offsides and on the next play Lamar fumbled the snap. You can't do that because they are so lethal offensively.
"The first two drives were perfect for us. Eat up some clock and score, but then they come back down in five or six plays and score."
The Raiders had a 14-13 lead after the first quarter. Daniels scored on a 20-yard run to give Harding a 14-7 advantage at the 3:51 mark of the period. Trubisky then connected with Nick Delisa on a 52-yard scoring play, but the point-after kick was blocked.
Mentor reeled off four more touchdowns to expand its lead to 39-14. Trubisky threw touchdown passes covering 62 yards to Brandon Fritts and 9 and 19 yards to Delisa, who had 171 yards on five receptions.
Trubisky scored on a 19-yard run on the first possession of the second half. Harding's John Coleman stopped the streak with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Muzic then kicked a 23-yard field goal. After Daniels ran 4 yards for a touchdown, Muzic tacked on a 24-yard field goal. Carmichael concluded the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jalyn Powell.
"That's a real good team right there," Daniels said. "They put up points. They throw the ball around. We knew that we were going to have to get some stops on defense, and we knew we would have to score a lot of points, but it didn't go our way this time."
Cardinals coach Steve Trivisonno liked what he saw in the first three quarters, but he wasn't pleased with what transpired in the final period.
"I thought we lost a lot of focus down the stretch," Trivosonno said. "We stopped ourselves. We should have put 60 on. They're a good, tough team."
Arnold was successful in turning around the fortunes of the program after a 2-8 record last season.
"To bring us back from going 2-8 to 9-2 this year, that's something no one expected us to do except us," Daniels said. "We wish we could have gone farther, but we'll take it."