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Mathews starts 2-0, first time since 2007

September 9, 2013
By MATTHEW PEASLEE - Tribune Chronicle (mpeaslee@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

When the alarm clock rang on Saturday mornings in 2012, Mike Palumbo wanted to hit the snooze button as much as possible. So far, this fall, waking up after a late night football game has been easier.

For the first time since 2007, Mathews is undefeated entering Week 3.

"It's much more fun coming in early on a Saturday after a win," said Palumbo, the second-year coach of the Mustangs. "The players and coaches are all excited in the morning and they want to be there to watch film, practice and prepare for our next task. It's been inspiring so far."

They opened the season with a 40-6 win over Newbury, snapping a six-game losing streak and overcoming a 63-185 scoring disadvantage. A 70-yard kickoff return by Wyatt Ford to open the season got things off on the right foot.

"Any time you start the season with a TD kick return you can feel something special will come from it," Palumbo said. "Especially having a senior leader back there making those plays. So many guys on this team look up to him."

Ford led the team with 104 tackles at safety in 2012. He also punts, kick field goals and starts at wide receiver on top of being the go-to return guy. In the classroom, Ford is a 4.0 student.

"You can't ask much more from him," Palumbo said.

The blowout romp to start the season was good for confidence, Palumbo said, but he learned more from his team in Friday's 34-28 win over East Palestine. The Bulldogs scored on their first play of the game.

"Last year," Palumbo said, "that would've taken our life out of the game right away."

It was tied, 14-14, after the first quarter and the Mustangs scored just before halftime to take a seven-point lead. Two big plays - runs of 40 and 25 yards - gave East Palestine a seven-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

"Again, that happens last year and we're down and we would stay down," Palumbo said. "We fought through adversity in the fourth quarter and that's a credit to our nine seniors."

A 55-yard throw by Coby Pratt found Ford for a score and Angelo Freed recovered a fumble and rumbled 72-yards to break the tie and seal a 34-28 win.

In 2007, under Jim Parry, the Mustangs beat Western Reserve and Cleveland Central Catholic to open the year. They went undefeated that season, shutting out three opponents. Leetonia is next for Mathews.

DISCIPLINED EAGLES: John F. Kennedy has amassed three penalties for 20 yards in two games. The Eagles had one penalty for 5 yards in their opener against South Range, while only getting flagged twice Friday against LaBrae for 15 yards.

"Our kids, we work on that," said Kennedy coach Dave Pappada "We preach that on the practice field. We have quality kids and they listen to what we have to say."

Added junior quarterback Michael Roscoe, "We pride ourselves with discipline. We're constantly looking at the ball, going on the snap count."

NECASTRO EARNS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Brookfield's Augustus Necastro isn't throwing out signals from the sidelines on Friday nights, nor is he taking lumps with the junior varsity team on Saturday mornings. He's a sophomore, starting with the big boys.

"I'm not afraid for him to drop back and pass because I know he's going to make the right decision," said Brookfield coach Randy Clark. "I still know he's young, but there's nobody I've coached at that position that has put as much time in toward this game as he has. He studies the game very well."

In two games, Necastro is 24 of 33 passing with 377 yards one interception and three touchdowns. "I'm extremely comfortable right now," Clark said. "I'm not afraid to call anything, I'm not afraid to call his number to run the ball."

On the ground, he's picked up 54 yards on 19 carries.

LIBERTY REGROUPS: Kevin Cylar admits there were many struggles leading his first varsity game. The Leopards trailed 27-7 against Salem in Week 1 and there was more confusion amongst the coaching staff than the players. From his hiring date in late June, there was just seven weeks to prep for the season.

"We needed to get a better game plan going and better organization," Cylar said. "We're never going to use the excuse about time and everything, but it's reality."

He even threw out the word "stupidity" to describe the coaches' mentality in Week 1. The biggest adjustment was giving the starting running back job to Lynn Bowden. The freshman had 23 rushes for 132 yards and a 26-yard touchdown reception in a shocking 42-33 win over Niles. He saw limited action against the Quakers and only carried 12 times.

Cylar says Bowden is like a son to him, having coached him since age 5. "He has potential to be the best running back in the state," Cylar added.