BUFFALO — The Medina football team got off to such a promising start this season, outscoring opponents by a combined 92 points in season-opening wins over Amherst, Maryvale and Akron. A berth in sectional play looked very possible for the Mustangs, if not likely.
But with Saturday’s loss at Bennett, Medina’s playoff fate is now out of its own hands. The Mustangs fell victim to strong offensive line play on Bennett’s part, as well as an inability to capitalize on chances in the red zone, in a 44-14 loss in a Class B North game at All High Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With the loss, Medina falls to 3-3 overall, 2-3 in Class B North play. The Mustangs are now tied for fifth in the league with Lew-Port, and will need a win over Albion (3-2 Class B North) this week coupled with a Lew-Port loss to advance to sectional play. The Lancers wrap up the season against Amherst.
“We knew we were going to be in for a dogfight, and Bennett won a dogfight up front,” Medina head coach Eric Valley said. “They’ve got a big, strong, fast offensive line, and we couldn’t slow them down very much.”
Medina fell behind quickly on the first drive of the game, as Bennett used a series of eight- to ten-yard runs to move the ball into Mustang territory, scoring on a four-yard rush just over four minutes into the game. The Mustangs went three-and-out on their first possession, as the Bennett defensive line burst through the backfield to wreak havoc on each play. The Tigers made the score 16-0 on the subsequent drive, a 39-yard march that was capped off with a five-yard run by senior Paul Dixon with 4:40 to play in the first.
Just like that, Medina was trailing by two possessions, and things would only get worse. The Mustangs put together a positive drive on the next series, starting with a 22-yard run by Munjie Brown and moving downfield on a steady diet of positive runs by Brown and Kyle Barna.
But on second-and-goal from the Bennett seven-yard-line, Barna took a pitch from quarterback Jason Hellwig and fumbled the ball once a Tiger defender made impact in the backfield. Bennett recovered at the 10, and quickly moved into the Medina red zone on a 73-yard air strike from quarterback Eric Thompson to receiver David Williams.
Bennett punched it in on a one-yard run two play later, and the Mustangs’ next drive came up empty despite a solid march down to the Tiger 15-yard line that included a crafty 30-yard run by Barna. Hellwig was sacked on two consecutive plays to force a 4th-and-37 situation, which left Valley no choice but to punt, despite a 22-0 deficit late in the first half.
The Tigers took over at their own 20-yard line with 4:07 to play in the half and wasted no time, moving the ball downfield on consecutive runs of 12, 30 and 15 yards. Bennett scored on a one-yard rush to make the score 28-0 at halftime, and the rout was on.
“If we could’ve matched them with a couple of scores early, we could’ve changed the tide a little bit,” Valley said. “But the bottom line is, they played a lot faster than we did, and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Medina drove the ball into the red zone again on the first drive of the second half, bolstered by Barna runs of 9, 8 and 14 yards. The drive again came up empty, as Barna was stuffed on third-and-goal from the Bennett one-yard line, and Hellwig threw incomplete to a wide-open Barna on fourth down. After the incompletion, Barna slammed the ball on the ground in disgust.
But the Mustang defense earned a rare stop and forced Bennett to punt from its own end zone, where Brett Pecoraro blocked the kick and recovered in the end zone for the touchdown. Pecoraro showed his explosiveness in the kicking games again later in the quarter, bursting through the line and sacking the Bennett punter on fourth-and-six from the Mustang 36, giving Medina possession near midfield.
Despite the blocked punt in the end zone that gave the Medina sideline and crowd some energy, the Tigers used a consistent running game throughout the second half to eat up clock and keep the Mustang offense from spending too much time on the field. Dixon led Bennett with 10 carries for 87 yards and three touchdowns, while Andrew White added eight rushes for 79 yards and a touchdown, as the Tigers stayed fresh by using a multitude of runners.
Brown got Medina’s lone offensive touchdown of the game on a four-yard run late in the fourth quarter, while Barna added the the successful two-point conversion, but that would be all the scoring for the Mustangs.
Brown led Medina defensively with nine tackles, while Pecoraro had seven and Hellwig added six. Barna paced the team offensively with 127 yards rushing, while Brown went for 76 and a touchdown.
The Medina-Albion rivalry game is slated for 7:30 p.m. this Friday, and will conclude the regular season of play.
“This puts us in a difficult situation as far as sectionals, but we’re all about winning the next game,” Valley said. “That’s all we can worry about. When you go into an Albion game, you can throw the records out. They’re on a winning streak right now, they’re hot right now, and we know we’re going to be in for another battle.”