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McDonald battles, but can’t get past Wellsville

October 26, 2013
By MATT WAGNER - Tribune Chronicle (mwagner@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

McDONALD - Down 21 points halfway through the third quarter, McDonald took less than 12 minutes to pull within three points and make it a close game against Wellsville.

Matt Morrell waltzed into the end zone on a 6-yard run with 9:52 remaining in the game, and the Blue Devils were riding high with confidence. Thus, when the Tigers took to the field for their next possession, they needed something to stem the tide of the momentum.

Wellsville put together a seven-play, 55-yard drive, capped off by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Sloan to Marcus Moxley with 5:29 remaining, to seal the win for the Tigers, 31-21. McDonald coach Dan Williams said even though there was time still left, this touchdown took the wind out of the Blue Devils' sails.

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"That takes out (the air) when it gets down to the 4:50, 5:00 marks," Williams said. "That hurts when you get into those positions, where we were willing to give up a field goal there to make it a six-point ballgame - still thinking we had good life. Second-and-7, they gambled and it paid off for them."

Wellsville (8-1, 5-1 Inter Tri-County League, Division II) jumped out to a three-touchdown lead by the 9:11 mark in the third quarter, thanks to a stout defense that held the Blue Devils (6-3, 4-2 ITCL, Division II) to 100 yards of total offense up to that point.

"We felt pretty good with that lead, and then maybe got too comfortable and maybe scored too quick there in the third quarter," Wellsville coach Rich Wright said. "Their kids battled till to the last second, so I think it was a good high school football game."

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Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Wellsville’s Zach Mellott, right, tackles McDonald’s Cameron Ifft as Ifft tries to gain yardage. Wellsville won, 31-21.

McDonald started to get back into the game by mixing in play-action passes, which opened up their running game. The Blue Devils struggled rushing in the first half, but with them attempting almost twice many passes in the second half than in the first (19 to 10), the running lanes opened up in the second half. This allowed McDonald to score 21 points in a four-and-a-half minute span.

Jake Reckard galloped for 75 of his team-high 98 yards and Morrell went for 54 of his 65 yards on the ground in the second half.

"We softened them up with some passes," Williams said. "We got them on their heels a little bit, and our backs and line did a great job blocking. We were able to make some runs. We didn't really come off our gameplan a whole lot except for some more play action and things we did throughout the end of that second half just to keep them off balance a little bit."

That didn't prove enough, however, as the Tigers managed to push out the lead late and hold on.

Wright said his team needs to clean a few things up before playing at second-ranked Western Reserve next week, such as turnovers. One of which, Sloan's fumble at Wellsville's 43-yard line early in the fourth quarter, allowed McDonald to march down the field and make it a 24-21 ballgame.

"We got another great test next week," Wright said. "But we get to play at home Week 11, and we got a shot at the (ITCL) title next week. We've got stuff to work on, but we'll be OK."

As for the Blue Devils, their playoff hopes took a huge hit with the loss, having been sixth in the computer rankings going into this weekend. but Williams said he told his players they didn't need to worry about whatever they can't control.

"The only thing that we can control right now is winning seven football games," Williams said. "After that, you're at the mercy of the computer. Our kids will regroup, they're going to come back and we're going to play hard next Friday."