Mercyhurst Prep got the ‘W’. The Cochranton football team got some respect.
The perennial powerhouse Lakers were nearly caught from behind by the upstart Cardinals in what turned out to be an exciting Region 2 showdown on Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium. In the end, though, Mercyhurst Prep held on for the victory, 41-34.
“My hat’s off to (Cochranton),” said Mercyhurst head coach Matt Morgan. “They did a great job. They’re going to be a very good football team. They’re a playoff team.”
Mercyhurst (2-0, 1-0 Region 1) led by as much as 41-18 with three quarters elapsed.
Lakers running back Cornelius Barclay racked up that lead almost single-handedly. For the night he rushed for 272 yards and all six of the Lakers’ touchdowns. He also kicked four extra points (he was too gassed to kick after TD No. 6), giving him 40 of the team’s 41 points for the night.
Barclay got the Lakers on the board on Mercyhurst’s first possession. The offense went nowhere on its first three plays. But Barclay faked the punt and rushed it 52 yards for a touchdown.
“We practiced for that too,” said Cochranton head coach Nate Liberty. “And they still got us with it.”
Barclay later added a 24-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter, and broke off a 28-yarder later in the frame to give Mercyhurst a 20-6 lead going into halftime.
Then in the third quarter, he finished all three of the Lakers’ drives with lengthy touchdown runs — 57, 50 and 39 yards.
“Barclay played like a beast tonight,” said Liberty. “My hat is off to him. Because he just won that game for that team.”
That 39-yarder put the Lakers up 41-18. Mercyhurst looked like it was running away with it. At least that’s what Morgan thought, as he put in his second team defense.
“We were up 41-18 and I thought we had a grasp on the game,” he said.
Cochranton, however, felt otherwise.
“I made a big mistake,” said Morgan. “I learned a valuable lesson there.”
On Cochranton’s next possession, the Cardinals drove 62 yards on seven plays, finishing it off with a 10-yard touchdown keeper by quarterback Chad Eisenhooth. Austin Andrews punched in the 2-point conversion, cutting the Lakers’ lead to 41-26.
Mercyhurst was three-and-out on its next possession. Mercyhurst put its starters back in on defense. But the Cardinals still put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by Eisenhooth’s 38-yard pass to Garrett Adams. Andrews tacked on the 2-pointer, and Cochranton now only trailed by 7 points with 1:33 to play.
The Cards tried for the onside kick, but Mercyhurst recovered. However, on the Lakers’ first play from scrimmage, fullback Tom Higgins fumbled the ball back to Cochranton with 1:26 to go.
Yet, the Cards couldn’t come up with a first down. And Mercyhurst left the stadium having just dodged a bullet.
“They didn’t quit,” said Liberty. “They didn’t quit.”
Eisenhooth had an outstanding night for the Cardinals. He completed 15 of 28 passes, and at least four of those incompletions were right on the money but dropped by his receivers. Still, he passed for 230 yards and three touchdowns, including the 38-yarder to Adams in the fourth; a 31-yarder to Jesse Staudt in the second quarter; and a 36-yarder to Staudt to start the second half. He also led the team on the ground, getting 13 carries for 46 yards and a score.
“Their quarterback is an outstanding athlete,” said Morgan. “He can make plays.”
Staudt caught four passes for 93 yards. Adams had three catches for 52 yards. Andrews collected three grabs for 30 yards (he also had 14 carries for 34 yards and a two-yard touchdown run in the third quarter). Tyler Buchan pulled two passes in for 28. A.J. Nageotte caught three for 27.
“We want respect,” said Liberty. “Our kids want respect, that’s why they didn’t quit. We got respect tonight. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of them.”
Mercyhurst Prep got the ‘W’. The Cochranton football team got some respect.
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