By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
Reading coverages is simply part of a quarterback’s job description. But the best read made Friday night by West Middlesex High’s Trey Staunch was when he observed his Farrell counterpart Ray’Shown Johnson from the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.
With West Middlesex leading 19-14, linebacker Staunch stepped in front of Johnson’s 2nd-and-11 pass with 51 ticks to play, securing the Big Reds’ District 10 Region 1-A road win.
“We were going in Cover-4. We knew they were going to have to throw, there was only 50-some seconds left, I think,” Staunch explained. “My responsibility is flat-to-curl, just drop back. I saw the ball coming, got a hand on it and brought it in.
“When you’re a quarterback you can read things, and on defense you actually read the same thing,” Staunch continued. “What you see on offense, you can take it to defense and see what (an opposing quarterback) is doing.”
Staunch stuck it to the Steelers twice.
Malik Graham took a toss right and sprinted 11 yards for Farrell, and Austin Pickens’ PAT with 6:10 to play staked the Steelers to a 14-13 lead.
However Staunch orchestrated an ensuing 8-play, 64-yard, 4-minute, 32-second scoring drive. Eric Lucich launched the series by sprinting 31 yards on the initial play, then culminated the sequence with a 4-yard run around left end after taking Staunch’s toss, sprung by Noah Bender’s block.
In spite of playing with a calf cramp, Lucich led all ball-carriers with a 15-carry, 141-yard outing.
“Stepping up feels great!” Lucich allowed. “I blocked all last year. I had a good role-model in Luke Patten. He’s an awesome kid, taught me a lot, taught me how to run the ball. I got a chance to step up, and I’m gonna step up. I just hope I can lead and carry on the tradition.”
Middlesex outmuscled Farrell twice a year ago, including the regular season, then in the D-10 semifinals. The Steelers had shut out Sharon and Kennedy Catholic to commence this campaign, but the Big Reds refused to be intimidated at Anthony J. Paulekas Stadium/Lou Falconi Field.
Though West Middlesex won the coin toss, the Big Reds deferred, choosing to start on defense. Then on their 2nd offensive series they scored on Chandler Tyillian’s 20-yard TD run, capping a 4-play, 61-yard series.
However Farrell forged a 7-all stalemate at intermission as Dewayne Burns burst 4 yards just 84 seconds into the 2nd stanza, culminating a 7-play, 61-yard, 2-minute, 42-second drive.
The teams were tied at 7 until the 1st play of the 4th frame.
On 3rd-and-goal from Farrell’s 11-yard line, Staunch saw Tyillian on a waggle moving right to left, parallel with the line of scrimmage, and the latter raced to the pylon at the left corner of the end zone. The play completed a 12-play, 65-yard, 7-minute, 20-second march. Though Tyillian’s attempted PAT was blocked. Middlesex moved to a 13-7 edge and set the stage for the final 11:53.
The loss was costly for Farrell (1-1, 2-1). After a 6-for-11, 68-yard 1st-half passing performance, Steelers’ starting signal-caller Rob Guelledge was concussed. Also, Burns sustained a 4th-quarter high-ankle sprain, aborting his evening after a 14-carry, 99-yard effort.
“We knew if we didn’t bring our ‘A’ game they’re a good team and they were gonna beat us. We didn’t bring our ‘A’ game,” lamented Steelers’ skipper Jarrett Samuels. “Against a superior team like this, you can’t come in and miss tackles. We’ve gotta find a way to clean it up, goin’ forward.
“We were here last year. We’ve just got to will our way back into it,” Samuels said, noting,
“This was a pivotal game. I told our guys this wasn’t a ‘must-win’ game for us, but it was a pivotal game, a measuring stick for where we’re at right now. ... (Middlesex) came out and showed us on our home field that they can get it done, and they were the best team (Friday) night. They were better.
“Give them a lot of credit. Coach Roberson and his team played well,” Samuels graciously praised. “That last drive was key. We had ’em, we were up, but they didn’t buckle. They went right down the field, and we missed a lot of tackles.”
Middlesex (1-0, 2-1) also lost last year’s opener, then won 8 consecutive contests, advancing to the District 10 title tilt for the 2nd straight season.
“It’s been a tough start,” 1st-year Middlesex mentor Ed Roberson said with a sheepish laugh. “I coached against (Wilmington’s Terry) Verrelli, then had to come here to Farrell to start the league. It’s a tough start to the season, but I’m just proud of (the Big Reds).
“These kids absolutely believe that they’re gonna win every time they step onto the field, and that’s just a credit to my assistant coaches, Joel Murray and Mark Means who’ve been here since I’ve been here,” Roberson related. “Mark’s been here the longest. But we just play with a lot of pride and try to get our kids ready to play every Friday night.
“We had a similar start last year. We started off losing to Wilmington, then we won eight straight,“ Roberson recalled, continuing with a laugh, “I’m not guaranteeing anything like that, but we’re hoping this generates some success for the stretch. But this is not an easy league to play in.”
“I’m hoping we can do even better than we did last year,” Lucich said. “We won eight straight; I’m hoping for nine, ten straight. We’ve just gotta play week by week and get it done.”
“Coach ‘Rob’ he’s been talking about this game all week, you know?” Staunch rhetorically said. “Just getting him this one-oh victory and as a head coach, getting him his first region victory, it means a lot to us and him.”
MIDDLESEX 7 0 0 12 19
FARRELL 0 7 0 7 14
WM — Tyillian, 20 run (Tyillian kick)
F — Burns, 4 run (Pickens kick)
WM — Tyillian, 11 pass from Staunch (kick blocked)
F — Graham, 11 run (Pickens kick)
WM — Lucich, 4 run (pass failed)
15 First downs 12
179 Rushing yards 93
121 Passing yards 163
18-10-0 Att-comp-int 21-13-1-
300 Total yards 256
1-0 Fumbles-lost 4-1
4-30- Penalties-yards lost 8-70
Rushing: WEST MIDDLESEX — Lucich 15-141, Tyillian 5-31, Hemminger 6-10, Staunch 11-(-3); FARRELL — Burns 14-99, Graham 3-4, Gavins 4-3, Jackson 1-(-1), Johnson 1-(-2), Guelledge 2-(10).
Passing: WEST MIDDLESEX — Staunch 18-10-0, 121; FARRELL — Johnson 10-7-1, 95; Guelledge 11-6-0, 68.
Receiving: WEST MIDDLESEX — Tyillian 6-59, Lucich 2-41, Fair 2-21 FARRELL — Newell 5-48, Pickens 3-57, Burns 2-39, McCoy 1-12, J.Jackson 1-9, R.Jackson 1-(2).