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Niles offense rolls in opener

August 30, 2013
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

GIRARD - The west coast offense is usually associated with the NFL, but it sure looked alive and well Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Niles McKinley Red Dragons unveiled their new-look offense, moving away from the run-oriented style of last season and rolling out a sleek, pass-oriented attack that could be termed pro style. Like all successful west coast offenses, the Dragons set up the defense with a variety of slants, quick-hitting posts and swing routes before delivering the knockout blow with an occasional deep throw by senior quarterback Kyle Paden.

It added up to a 35-attempt, 358-yard effort by Paden as the Dragons opened a five-touchdown lead on the way to a 38-19 win over the Girard Indians in the season opener.

Article Photos

Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Niles’ John Cicero (11) and Justin Lopes celebrate a touchdown against Girard on Thursday night. The Red Dragons defeated the Indians, 38-19.

"They have great designed plays coming off runs, and they're always open," Paden said of a corps of talented receivers. "I have to credit them and my line for giving me time to throw the ball."

While the Dragons' offense looked pretty darn good from the stands, coach Brian Shaner saw room for improvement.

"There were times when we looked really good in doing it and times when we just didn't look good doing it," Shaner said. "We have to get sharper if that's going to be our kind of football. Girard is a tough, backyard kind of rivalry. For a first game we're going to take the win and get back to Niles happy with it."

Paden showed great touch and the ability to scramble, which apparently some fans didn't think he could pull off. On a 50-yard touchdown pass to Chris Parry, Paden spun away from an on-rushing defender, rolled to his left and zipped a pass straight into Parry's hands.

"No one ever thought I could run or that I'm a pocket passer and couldn't get out of the pocket," Paden said. "I think I showed some doubters what I could really do."

Paden repeatedly spread the ball to four receivers - Parry, Marcus Hill, Jimmy Mullen and Justin Lopes. Lopes had seven receptions for 142 yards, including a 72-yard grab for a touchdown. Hill caught nine passes for 83 yards. Parry had four catches for 85 yards, and Mullen pulled in four passes for 42 yards.

The attack, which generated 420 yards, was too much for the Indians' defense.

"They have a lot of weapons," Indians coach Nick Cochran said. "Take nothing away from Niles; that's a good team. I think they're going to be better than they were last year.

"We just put ourselves in bad situations. We knew we had to weather the storm, and we couldn't. That's something we're going to have to learn to do."

The Dragons marched 80 yards on 10 plays to score on a 38-yard run by John Cicero on their first possession. They extended the lead to 14-0 on Lopes' 72-yard reception on a deep throw down the middle of the field.

Niles stretched its lead to 35-0 on Parry's 50-yard touchdown reception, a 3-yard run by Cicero and a 63-yard return of an interception by Parry.

The Indians scored late in the third quarter on a 19-yard pass from Nick Cardiero to Collin Cramer. The Dragons answered with a 70-yard drive that produced a 25-yard field goal by Zach Atkins.

Girard made it a bit closer in the fourth period on touchdown runs of 3 and 9 yards by James Cupan, who rushed for 116 yards on 23 carries.

It wouldn't appear that Shaner could ask much more from the Dragons' offense, but he's determined to try.

"I thought we got a little sloppy," he said. "I don't know if we got tired or rested on the lead. I want these guys to be perfect. I want them to play every down like it's our last down of football. There's no excuse for getting sloppy."

Niles is at Liberty Friday, Sept. 6. Girard visits Hubbard the same night.