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Cochranton Holds On for a Thrilling Win Over Maplewood // @CochrantonPride @MHSTigersFootb1

Written by: on Saturday, November 6th, 2021

 

Anyone who understands football knows that it’s hard to beat the same team twice in the same season. That was definitely the case for the Cochranton Cardinals (8-0), as they held on for a 14-12 win over Maplewood (5-5) in the District 10 Class A semifinal game Friday night at Bender Field in Meadville. 

“Maplewood is well-coached,” Cochranton head coach Mike Feleppa said. “It’s hard to beat a team twice. We expected a close game.”

Earlier in the season, Cochranton cruised to a 28-0 win over the Tigers. But this evening, Maplewood had a defensive scheme ready to hold Cardinals star running back Jack Martinec in check throughout the first half. 

“We started out slow, and Maplewood had us schemed out pretty well defensively,” coach Feleppa said.

Early in the game, Cochranton’s normally explosive offense had trouble moving the ball and didn’t score its first point until late in the first half on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Noah Cummings to Blake Foulk on 4th and 6, giving the Cardinals a 7-0 lead at the half. 

Though Maplewood’s defense did an exceptional job containing Martinec in the first half, it was only a matter of time before the shifty back broke a big play. Late in the 3rd quarter, Martinec returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown, making multiple Tiger defenders miss along the way. 

“During halftime, I told Jack that he just had to keep fighting and something would open up for him,” Coach Feleppa said. “And when he fielded that punt, I knew he was going to take it back.”

At that point, holding a 14-0 lead, it seemed like Cochranton was poised for a convincing victory. But Maplewood quickly showed why it deserved to be in the semifinal game. Early in the 4th quarter, junior running back Ben Giliberto capped off a hard-fought 65-yard, 11 play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, cutting the Cardinal’s lead to 14-6. The ensuing PAT was blocked — a play that held significance later in the game. 

On the next drive, it looked like Cochranton was on the verge of icing the game with methodical runs that ate plenty of clock, putting the Cardinals deep into Maplewood territory on the back of Jack Martinec. But an untimely fumble on a handoff recovered by Maplewood gave the Tigers new life with 4 minutes left in the game. 

Following, back-to-back personal fouls by the Cardinals helped Maplewood quickly move downfield. And a perfect 40-yard pass by Logan Kennedy to Connor Palmiero on 4th and 12 set up the Tigers on 1st and goal on the 2-yard line. Two plays later, Giliberto punched it in for a touchdown with 30 seconds left in the game. 

This is where the earlier blocked PAT came back to haunt Maplewood. The Tigers were forced to go for 2 points, and the Cardinals were ready by breaking up Kennedy’s pass while he scrambled to his right. 

An unsuccessful onside kick by Maplewood put Cochranton in the victory formation and on to the Class A District 10 title game next week against Reynolds, who defeated Eisenhower 56-27. 

“I’m proud of the kids, they’ve bought into what we’ve been trying to do as coaches,” Coach Feleppa said. “They are believing in themselves, and when you believe in yourself, good things happen.”

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