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GAME OF THE WEEK: Cardinals remain unscathed after tussle with Tigers

The most anticipated Ohio Heritage Conference football game of the 2013 season did not disappoint as undefeated Triad held on late to beat defending conference champion West Liberty-Salem 33-29, claiming at least a share of the OHC championship.

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Triad defender Damian Boldman chases down West Liberty-Salem’s Ben Burden during their Friday night game at Triad. (EXAMINER PHOTO | MARK MEEKER)

More photos in slide show below

 

The Cardinals are 9-0 and have a one game lead over Mechanicsburg in the OHC at 6-0. A win for Triad next week over a winless Springfield Catholic Central team would give the Cardinals the outright title.

“This is a huge win for us,” said Triad head coach Payton Printz. “We didn’t want to share the title with anyone. This win definitely helps us in that regard. It also gives us a good shot at obtaining this team’s first goal and that was to be the first team in school history to go 10-0. We are one game closer to that now.

“It locked up our goal of being league champs and that is pretty exciting. It also gives us a good shot at maybe being the top seed in the playoffs and locking up a home playoff game. A lot of our dreams will be a reality because of this win.”

Triad has clinched a home playoff game according to joeeitel.com, and is currently the top seed in Division VII, Region 26.

On Friday, the Cardinals were led by their sophomore quarterback Trent McIntyre, who had 174 rushing yards and three touchdowns combined with 201 passing yards and one touchdown. Senior wideout Steven Feasel hauled in six passes for 136 yards and one touchdown.

“Trent was phenomenal,” said Printz. “He accounted for 375 yards of our offense and was so huge tonight. I will push him for player of the year. He has been such an important part of our offense this year.”

The Cardinal offense started off hot on this cold night, taking only two plays on their initial possession to light up the scoreboard.

McIntyre bolted 69 yards on the second play of the game to give Triad a 6-0 lead, and that score remained after the 2-pt conversion failed.

On the ensuing possession, however, the Tigers responded with a 9-play, 65-yard drive of their own that ended with quarterback Brandon Upton finding Ben Burden in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass.

The Tiger extra-point attempt also failed to keep the score tied at 6-6. After the early fireworks, both offenses would cool off for couple of series, and after trading turnovers, the first quarter ended in a 6-6 tie.

The Cardinals would strike first in the second quarter. They went to the air to move the ball into Tiger territory, and then struck pay dirt on a 36-yard touchdown pass from McIntyre to Feasel.

The Cardinals’ 2-point conversion attempt failed again, and the score stayed at 12-6.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Cardinals caught the Tigers off-guard with a successful onside kick, and took over possession of the ball at midfield. With the Tigers still wobbling from the Triad trickery, the Cardinals only needed four plays to again find the end zone, this time on a 9-yard run from McIntyre.

This time, the 2-pt conversion was successful, and Triad took a 20-6 lead at the 9:31 mark of the second quarter.

The Tigers regained their composure, and answered nicely with a well-executed drive with a good mix of run and pass.

Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Taylor Cordell blasted in for the score, and after a successful extra point, the Tigers were back in the game only trailing 20-13.

The Cardinals responded once again, using a 7-play, 61-yard drive that only took two minutes off the clock. Chaz Adams blasted into the end zone from six yards out, and the extra point made the score 27-13.

The Cardinals took that 14-point lead into halftime.

The Tigers got the ball to start the second half, but could not move the chains.

After punting the ball to Triad, the West Liberty-Salem coaching staff encouraged their defense to make a much-needed play to prevent the game from getting out of reach.

Three plays later, the Tiger defense did just that and intercepted McIntyre off of a tipped pass and returned it deep into Cardinal territory.

Two plays later, Cordell found the end zone again and cut the Cardinal lead to 27-19.

But, as would be the theme of the evening, Triad responded time and time again when it needed to.

The THS offense settled in after the turnover, and put together a 9-play, 67-yard drive and another McIntyre touchdown run to expand their lead again, to 33-19.

The action-packed second half was far from over though, and again the Tigers moved the ball down the field, and moved within one score when Cordell glided around the right end for his third touchdown of the night. A successful 2-point conversion moved the Tigers to within six at 33-27.

Triad began to make things even more interesting as the game moved into the fourth quarter. A costly fumble in their own territory had the Tigers only 36 yards from their first lead of the night.

Kameron Evans busted off two long runs on back-to-back carries to move the Tigers to first-and-goal from the Cardinal 6-yard line.

But on second down, Tiger quarterback Brandon Upton was hit as he threw and the ball wobbled into the waiting arms of a Triad defender. It appeared the Cardinals had avoided trouble for the time being, but as their offense tried to move the ball out from deep in their own territory, McIntyre was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, which by rule is a safety.

The two points for West Liberty-Salem meant that the Cardinals now were clinging to only a 33-29 lead with 10:35 remaining in the contest.

The Triad free kick sailed out of bounds, and the Tigers would take over on the Triad 45-yard line. The Triad defense tightened up, however, and forced West Liberty-Salem into a long fourth-and-10 conversion attempt.

The Tigers turned the ball over on downs as the fourth down pass slipped through the receiver’s hands at the 5-yard line.

The Tigers would get one more opportunity. After forcing the Cardinals to also turn the ball over on downs, they moved the ball into Cardinal territory as the game clock moved under three minutes remaining.

But again, the Triad defense responded with another fourth down stop as Upton’s pass to Landon Williams fell incomplete.

The Cardinals took over with just over two minutes remaining, and only needing one first down to clinch the victory and the OHC championship. On third-and five, the Cardinals blasted through the line, picked up the first down, and sealed the 33-29 win.

“We just made a few mistakes at the wrong times tonight. We couldn’t capitalize on the mistakes they made, and I hold myself accountable for that. Our kids ... they fought hard,” said West Liberty-Salem head coach Dan McGill.

The Tigers were led on the ground by Cordell, who had 72 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries. Williams led the Tiger receivers with five catches for 65 yards.

TIGERS @ CARDINALS

West Liberty-Salem 6 7 14 2–29 Triad 6 21 6 0–33

TEAM STATISTICS WL-S • TRI

First Downs 16 • 22

Total net yards    266 • 461

Rushing/yards 32/109 • 43/260

Passing 157 • 201

Comp-att-int 15-33-3 • 10-25-2

Punts/avg 2/27 • 1/25

Fumbles-lost 0-0 • 1-1

Penalties-yards 2-27 • 8-57

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