Joey Mascadri was a receiver for most of three seasons. But in Mechanicsburg’s final regular season game last season, the Indians’ quarterback was hurt and it was a rainy night. So head coach Kurt Forrest put Mascadri at quarterback and he ran the football 36 times.
“I knew right then that that kid’s got what it takes to put the team on his shoulders when necessary,” Forrest said.
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Mascadri’s shoulders were plenty big enough in Friday night’s season opener at Kenton Ridge. Actually, there were lots of big shoulders in the purple and white as the Division VII Indians rolled to a 54-14 victory and stunned the Division IV Cougars.
Mascadri rushed 21 times for 213 yards and three touchdowns to lead an offense that blocked and blocked and blocked the Cougars until it had rushed for 371 yards.
“I like it,” Mascadri said. “It’s fun.”
The Indians led 27-7 at halftime, but the Cougars showed life in the third quarter with an opening drive capped by quarterback Dylan Lemen’s 29-yard touchdown run. The Cougars were trailing 34-14 and driving again when Lemen was sacked by Noah Wolf and fumbled. Kix Thiel picked up the fumble and returned it 70 yards for a 41-14 lead in the third quarter. Kenton Ridge finished with five turnovers.
The Indians’ successful running attack caught the Cougars off-guard. Head coach Joel Marratta, who calls the defense, saw the Indians in at least five formations that were not on the scrimmage films he watched. During the first quarter while his offense was on the field, he was off to the side with an assistant coach drawing up the formations on a piece of cardboard and searching for adjustments.
“I did not have an answer to what they brought to us offensively,” Marratta said. “In the first half when all my guys play both ways it’s hard to make adjustments until you get to halftime. Basically I got outcoached defensively tonight.”
Forrest employed two quarterbacks as planned. He started junior Logan Hurst, but used freshman Aaron Conley on the first possession. Forrest at times alternated them every play. Both made positive runs and the combined for 84 yards passing.
“Just a gut feel,” Forrest said. “There’s no percentages or you’re going to play this many plays. Hopefully it works out in the end.”
Forrest has a plan for making things work out again for the Indians in their quest for a sixth straight playoff berth. He preaches a culture of toughness and discipline, and he likes what he sees so far.
“Those two things are elite,” Forrest said. “When you add a little bit of talent to discipline and toughness in a group of kids that’s willing to sacrifice for one another and be completely selfless, then great things happen.”
For all that went right, the Indians got off to a bad start when Conley bobbled his first varsity snap. Cougars linebacker Luke Miesse grabbed the ball out of the air and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game.
“A little adversity never hurts to pull a team together,” Mascadri said.
Marratta and the Cougars are hoping the same is true for them in their next game.
“We can’t internally combust,” Marratta said. “There’s enough danger on the outside that we can’t self-destruct just because we stubbed our toe. We’ve just got to stay together. We’re the only ones that can fix it, and we’ve got to come back and work just as hard and harder next week.”