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Polish power leads Struthers over rival, 39-6

August 30, 2013
By MATTHEW PEASLEE - Tribune Chronicle (mpeaslee@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

CAMPBELL - Luke Witkowski moved from Poland to Struthers when he was 3.

Not a big deal, right? Well, it wasn't a drive that took less than 5 minutes to go a little over 2 miles from neighborhood to neighborhood. Witkowski and his family packed up from Poland - the European country - and traveled approximately 4,495 miles and over 10 hours to get to northeast Ohio.

"I don't remember much about it," Witkowski said.

He sure won't forget his first varsity start for the Struthers High football team. The junior running back rushed 13 times for 136 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats 39-6 victory over rival Campbell at John Knapick Field.

"Getting that score high was our game plan," Witkowski said. "Get up by a lot and keep it up."

All three of his touchdowns came in the first half on runs of 49, 32 and 8 yards. He went untouched on his first score on the Wildcats' second play of their first possession. It was Witkowski's first varsity touchdown.

"It pretty much was a great feeling," he said. "I couldn't do it without the line. I just used my speed to get through."

Campbell quarterback Stephan Elash, also making his first varsity start, had his first pass on the first play of the game picked off by Anthony Farkas.

Elash struggled to run plays, but was able to go 3-6 for 76 yards before missing the second half with a leg injury. Aches and pains plagued the Red Devils as time was called for six injured players. Struthers forced another turnover when linebacker Braxton Koup recovered a Desean Johnson fumble late in the first quarter. The defense also limited Campbell to 84 total yards with minus-23 yards on the ground. The Red Devils were forced three-and-out four times.

"We got beat by a great football team," said Campbell coach Mickey Sikora, a Struthers grad. "They're seasoned. They had a lot of experienced guys coming back and they were ready for this."

Though the Wildcats (1-0) lost running back David Stewart, and his 2,000 yards from 2012, to graduation, they returned eight offensive starters including most of the line, tight ends and fullback.

"When you return everybody up front and two pretty good tight ends and two guys that can play tailback, I expected us to run well," Struthers coach Curt Kuntz said.

Senior Nick Pollifrone added a touchdown and 46 rushing yards, while Michael Sullivan ran for a touchdown and 66 yards on 11 carries.

The Red Devils (0-1) didn't score until the 2:26 mark of the third quarter. Brandon Kish was attempting a 32-yard field goal for the Wildcats, but the try was blocked. Campbell special teams player Cameron Collins picked up the ball around the 16-yard line and took it down the sidelines, with two cut-backs inside the opposing 20, and scored.

This was Struthers' third-straight win, retaining the Steel Helmet, a trophy dating back to the early 1970's.

"Rivalry games are a little more intense," Pollifrone said, "but we take every week the same and do our job."

In the 85 years of the rivalry, Campbell still leads the all-time series, 45-38-2. On Thursday, the teams combined for 12 penalties, four dead-ball personal foul calls and 162 yards off penalties.

Struthers hosts Lakeview next Friday. Campbell travels to South Range.