Two hundred yards of rushing offense is a good day. Three hundred is a very good day.
Racking up 468, though, is something a still maturing team can hang their hat on.
Firelands did just that Friday when it took down the Wellington Dukes 35-13 in a Patriot Athletic Conference Stars matchup.
The victory puts the Falcons at 6-1 and in a three-way tie atop the Stars Division with Buckeye and Keystone while Wellington falls to 3-4.
Nick Denney amassed 190 yards on the ground to go along with four touchdowns — two rushing, two receiving. The junior set the tone early by pushing the pile for gains of 10-plus yards on the game’s first drive before punching the ball into the end zone for the opening score.
“We still want to make some defensive improvements going forward into the year,” he said. “We gave up that early touchdown but were able to get a quick two of our own to counter and that really preserved our momentum. Our run game is really good but we couldn’t do it without our offensive line pushing and making holes.”
Senior Michael Whitacre saw those same holes and nearly matched Denney’s yards total with 187 on 16 carries. Junior Logan Stader scored a touchdown and ran for 80 yards on 14 carries.
“We want to keep sharing the ball,” said Strader. “If the line keeps blocking like this we can be unstoppable. “We need to make some adjustments in our pass defense. Wellington hit some big plays on us.”
Dukes quarterback Max Carevic completed 21 of 38 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown. Junior Mason Wright led Wellington in receptions with seven. Carevic led the Dukes’ ground attack with 69 yards and Parker Rieske’s 87 yards on four catches set the pace through the air.
“We have to want it more,” said Wright. “We don’t show enough energy or fight to win games like this. We seem to give up after a touchdown. We have to dedicate ourselves to the game, set our edges, and stop doing our own thing instead of following the play design.”
Wellington senior running back Nate Nocella shared his teammate’s thoughts on how to get back to winning.
“Last week was just missing some details,” he said. “We came out ready to play but just didn’t execute. Today we came out flat. It’s not Dukes football. We have to really focus and come out playing hard.”
Denney and Strader gave Firelands a 14-0 lead before Carevic scored for the Dukes on the ground. Firelands quarterback Michael Bansek then connected with Denney on a 57-yard touchdown with Denney scoring again on the ground before halftime to give Firelands a 28-7 edge.
Trevor Porter caught a five-yard pass from Carevic in the fourth quarter but Denney capped the night with his fourth score, a 26-yard reception from Bansek.
Falcons coach Mike Passerrello was happy with the win but was already looking for ways to improve before facing off against Buckeye on the road this Friday.
“The kids have just been able to stick together and get team wins,” he said. “Being able to rattle off six in a row after losing big in week one is a testament to them and the coaches. They really enjoy playing with each other. We have some tough tests coming down the road. We’re going to have to finish off drives against Buckeye. We didn’t finish off some drives late that could have put the game away earlier.”
Wellington will welcome Keystone for its homecoming game Friday. Coach Sean Arno has said his team has faced tough tests as of late.
“We’ve played the best two teams in the league the past two weeks,” he said. “Keystone is good. Black River is good. Brookside is a little down. We just didn’t play well early tonight. They marched right down the opening drive and mashed us on nice plays and scored. We battled back a little bit but we didn’t come to play in the first half. In the second half we played a little bit better but Firelands handled us up front and beat us fair and square.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier and Russ Gifford | Civitas Media Firelands’ Nick Denney works his way through a swarm of Wellington defenders Friday en route to a 190-yard evening.