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Harding ground game manhandles Warrensville Heights

September 28, 2013
By MATT WAGNER - Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

WARREN - Going into the season, coach Steve Arnold pointed to the offensive line as one of the strongest units on the Warren G. Harding football team.

On Friday night against Warrensville Heights at Mollenkopf Stadium, the unit showed exactly why it deserved such praise, bullying an undermanned Warrensville Heights team en route to a 43-0 shellacking in Lake Erie League action.

Harding (3-2, 2-0 LEL) totaled 413 yards on the ground, attempting just seven passes in the entire game and none in the second half.

"We're amassing a lot of yards on the ground, and that's pretty much what we want to do," Arnold said. "We just have to keep getting better and stay injury-free, which we've pretty much done, but we're making improvements."

The running backs could thank the offensive line for making life easy for them against the Tigers (0-5), especially in the first half.

Keemari Murry busted open two runs of 40-plus yards and four other runs of at least 10 yards, and while the sophomore had to break a few tackles on those runs, many times he wasn't touched until he reached the second level. The offensive line created big holes for him and the others to run.

Murry gained all of his game-high 178 yards in the first half, scoring two touchdowns in the second quarter to help the Raiders go into halftime with a 29-0 lead.

"We feel, as the offensive line, that's always the gameplan," senior tackle Kaelyn Campbell said. "Just be more physical than whoever is in front of you - that's always the No. 1 priority.

"Our O-line works great as a unit. We've taken a lot of strides since (Austintown) Fitch and Massillon, but we really have to give it up to Keemari and Buddha (John Coleman) - they run hard and they're good backs. They're able to find the hole even if we can't make it."

Despite the scoreline, Arnold said Harding had a few things to work on going forward.

The Raiders committed 11 penalties for 108 yards, and they threw two interceptions - both in the first quarter - and lost two fumbles.

"We still had too many mistakes," Arnold said. "We still have to eliminate the turnovers and the penalties that we had tonight. We really hadn't been penalized a lot throughout the season until tonight."

As for Warrensville Heights, the Tigers had just 21 players available for the game because of injuries and others quitting the team. Warrensville Heights coach Eric Sopkovich commended his players' effort after the game, but he said the team didn't need to give Harding any help by throwing four interceptions to give Harding a distinct advantage in field position.

"Attrition set in for us," Sopkovich said. "Early on, we had a lot of guys going both ways, but when you're facing a good team like that, you can't make mistakes. We had a couple of big mistakes happen that we need to go back to the drawing board and fix them."

After starting the season off slow, Harding has now won two consecutive games, both in conference, and Arnold said the team is hoping to build off these results going into the second half of the season.

"When you're healthy, you have all your weapons, and it enables you to do some things that you want to do," Arnold said. "This is our second game in league play, and we're pressing forward, making a run here to try and get into the playoffs."