United cruises by Purchase Line, improves to 3-0
ARMAGH — Fumbles, penalties and running: That was the name of the game last Friday night as the United Lions used its ground attack to punish the Purchase Line Red Dragons defense.
The Lions used the three-headed running attack of Kody Oliver, Dom Chero and Joey Reed to beat the Red Dragons 28-8 at Thomas J. Madill Field, handing the Dragons (0-3) their 13th straight loss.
The Lions are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2004 and that was before current Lions head coach Greg Mytrysak took over at the helm. The Lions went to the ground early and often to take pressure off starting quarterback Tyler Dipofi, and the Red Dragon defense struggled.
Reed got the scoring started in the first quarter after PL's Mike Jarvie fumbled the ball and United's John Blankenship recovery set up a 15-yard scamper from Reed up the middle from the 15-yard line for a 6-0. The Lions' 2-point conversion attempt failed which made the score stay 6-0.
While Reed was a key factor, Chero and Oliver were the leaders on offense for the Lions as Oliver had a touchdown along with 19 carries for 85 yards, and Chero had two touchdowns with 17 carries for 71 yards. The running game was a success due to the offensive line's play.
"I think they (the running backs) play as well as our offensive line plays," Mytrysak said. "So, when the offensive line puts it in gear, these guys put it in gear, too. They run hard, and they run hard all the time, the offensive line works, and I told them after the game, I said, 'Guys that doesn't happen, that's hard work,' and that's truly what it was. We worked very hard tonight."
The Lions will need the same performance heading into tonight's game at Homer-Center.
"I haven't seen them or gotten any film on them yet," Mytrysak said. "We'll start working toward them and they'll (Homer-Center) do the same toward us, but I just know Homer-Center, they'll be prepared. They've got a good coaching staff; they're going to be ready to play. We better have the 'A' game (tonight). They'll come out, they're going to hit us, and we're going to hit back too, so I would expect that to be a pretty good game."
Dipofi and Reed are in the their first year with the United football program as the two transferred to the United School District from Laurel Valley after the school consolidated with Ligonier Valley, but the two opted to go to United instead but had to sit out the Lions' first game as the PIAA District 6 board approved the transfer. Mytrysak likes what he has seen so far from those two as they have adjusted nicely to the program.
"I think they're football players and they realize that," Mytrysak said. "They (Dipofi and Reed) love it. They really enjoy being on our team and our players enjoy having them on our team. These guys fit in very well and they're very good football players. We want to keep giving Tyler a little bit more, and I told him after the game 'Tyler, you know, we're going to keep putting a little bit more on your plate,' so we bring him along and he's doing fine and Joey's doing a great job, too."
United's Chero did it all for the Lions' second score of the game as he ran in for a touchdown from 4 yards out with 39 seconds to play in the first half to make it a 12-0 Lion lead. A penalty pushed the Lions back on the 2-point try, but they still converted on a pass from Dipofi to Chero.
The penalties and turnovers were more costly to the Red Dragons than they were to the Lions as PL had eight penalties for 65 yards to go along with three fumbles, all in the first quarter, and United recovered all three of them. The Lions were called for only two penalties and turned it over only once.
With the score 20-8 late in the game, the Red Dragons were in prime position to score again as the Stolitza connection was in gear as Luke Stolitza hit Cody Stolitza from PL's own 20-yard line for a 34-yard catch, and then they hooked up with each again three plays later as Cody Stolitza hauled in a 26-yard catch all the way down to United's 17-yard line, but the Dragons were called for a delay of game penalty.
A few plays later, the Stolitzas hooked up again as Cody caught a 9-yard pass from Luke but, once again, PL was called for an illegal procedure penalty on a fourth down that pushed them back five yards. With another attempt from the 18-yard line, instead of the 13, Luke Stolitza's threw an incomplete pass and PL turned it over on downs. The penalties cost the Red Dragons dearly on what looked to be a promising drive.
"Big penalty down there, that's just penalties killing a drive," PL head coach Dave Small said. "We had a penalty down here in close and it drives you back. Our lineman wasn't set, and we had a good play and design but it's these kids we're working with, high school kids, and we got to get that straightened out, and if we do, I think we got a very good football team here."
The Lions capitalized on the turnover on downs as Oliver ripped off a 38-yard run from the 43-yard line to the PL 19 and two plays later scored with a touchdown from 17 yards out with 4:16 left in the game to make it 26-8. Dipofi found a wide open Kevin Sombronski for the two-point conversion to make it 26-8, capping off a 10-play drive.
Chero also had a 1-yard run for a touchdown with 3:11 in the third quarter for a 20-8 lead. That score was set up by a blocked punt by Dan Lichtenfels and a 14-yard run by Dipofi three plays later.
The Red Dragons did have a big play offensively for the team's only points of the game as Luke Stolitza found a wide open Garrett Burba on the far sideline for a 77-yard receiving touchdown. PL converted the 2-point attempt as Luke Stolitza threw a pass that was tipped twice by a PL receiver and a United defender and eventually fell into Cody Stolitza's hands falling down in the end zone to make it 20-8 United with 2:04 left in the third quarter.
Mike Jarvie was PL's leader on offense with 12 carries for 28 yards.