LUCAS — After being shut out by Lucas in a nonconference game last season, Mogadore came into Friday's game with a special opportunity to not only get revenge on the Cubs' home field but also extend its winning streak to five games and remain undefeated.
In a ground-and-pound matchup riddled with late-game mishaps, the Wildcats held on to defeat Lucas 18-14, fueled by a gritty defensive performance.
“Last year [Lucas] came into our place and shut us out [14-0], so our kids knew they were going to be in for a dogfight,” said Mogadore coach Matt Adorni. “There’s no doubt about it — we knew it was going to be a four-quarter battle, and it was.”
Propelled by the bad taste left in their mouth from last year, the Wildcats (5-0) boasted a tough defensive effort throughout the first half. On the opening drive of the game, the Cubs (3-2) found success on the ground utilizing a Wing-T formation and marched into the red zone. However, Mogadore adjusted quickly, forcing a field goal attempt that was blocked.
Lucas rallied defensively and forced two punts in the first half. The Wildcats mounted a strong running attack, but holding and illegal procedure penalties prevented Mogadore from making much progress in its opening two drives.
It was not until the last 32 seconds of the half that the Wildcats were able to kickstart their offense, implementing a spread formation and going to the air. With time winding down, junior quarterback Zeke Cameron completed two monster throws to set up the Wildcats inside the 5-yard line. On a reverse pass play, senior tight end Mason Williams sprinted to the outside edge and, throwing on the run, found senior receiver Nick Stephenson in the right corner of the end zone for the score.
A blocked extra point attempt kept the score at 6-0 at the half.
Adorni emphasized the importance of utilizing Williams, who is committed to Ohio University for football next year, in a number of roles offensively.
“[Mason] is doing a little bit of everything for us. He’s a tight end by nature, but we have to play him at running back ... he’s such a versatile kid. You can see that with the touchdown pass, which was fun, but we have to utilize his talents.”
Holding Mogadore to just six points in a half is no easy feat. The Wildcats were scoring more than 36 points per game coming into the game, so Lucas coach Scott Spitler was pleased with his team’s first-half performance.
“We told our [team] at halftime that you have one of the top-ranked [Division] 6 schools in the state, and it’s six to nothing at halftime," he said. "If we were offered that at the beginning of the week we’d take that.”
Coming out of the break, the Cubs were undeterred by the slight deficit. They quickly forced a turnover on downs and went on the attack offensively. Changing to a spread formation, Lucas marched into the red zone and capitalized when junior running back Logan Toms took a direct snap into the end zone for the Cubs' first score of the game.
Lucas got the ball back quickly after recovering a fumble on the kickoff and, just two plays later, senior running back Andrew Fanello got loose for a spectacular 49-yard touchdown run, pushing the lead to 14-6.
“[Lucas] is hard to stop. It’s hard to mimic what they do and they actually got out of what they normally do going to the spread, which gave us a whole host of problems,” said Adorni.
But the Cubs did not get to enjoy their lead for long.
Williams further displayed his athleticism in the fourth quarter, this time in the run game. With just under 11 minutes to play, he ran 3 yards for a score. Then, just over six minutes later, he scored his second rushing touchdown of the night on another red-zone carry, pushing the Wildcats to a 18-14 lead.
“When we come out we establish a run game. It opens up everything for us,” Williams said. “We trust our line a lot, so we really try to involve them as much as we can. When our line is working, that’s when everything is working.”
It seemed that retribution was a common theme for the Wildcats players, too.
“[Last] year on the road they shut us out," Williams said. "I think it was the first time we’ve been shut out in around 20 years. Coach [Adorni] told us the revenge is going to be sweet, so we fought back and tried to get that.”
The Cubs were not without opportunities to score in the fourth quarter, but they were hurt by three lost fumbles.
“We just loosened up and we came out and played a little more free in the second half, but when it got tight there it was turnover fest ... and they capitalized and we didn’t,” said Spitler.
For Mogadore, Cameron finished with 108 passing yards, completing 5 of 11 attempts. Senior running back Collin Lehner led the way on the ground with 54 yards and junior Austin Constantine contributed 46.
Cubs senior quarterback Andrew Smollen completed 4 of 8 passes for 32 yards, while Fanello had a phenomenal night running the ball with 172 yards on 14 carries. Toms pitched in 77 rushing yards on 14 attempts.
The road does not get any easier for Lucas, which travels to Crestview (5-0) next week for a nonconference game.
When asked about facing off against the Cougars, Spitler simply stated, “We need to get better.”
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Lucas, Mogadore battle to Week 5 high school football instant classic