Thursday, February 2, 2023

Cardinal holds off Fairport

MIDDLEFIELD—Cardinal got all it could handle from visiting Fairport Harding but the Huskies came up with the defensive stops when they needed them to hold off the Skippers on Friday, 48-42.

The win was No. 100 for Cardinal head coach Eric Cardinal.

“It’s a great honor and I’m very grateful,” Cardinal said. “I’m grateful to this group of guys and every group of guys I had before this but the kids win the games. I’ve never won a game here. Coaches lose games and that’s the way it should be, but the kids win them.”

Brice Hogue opened the game with a 51-yard touchdown run. He went on to rush for 166 yards on 16 carried and scored three times.

Fairport’s Rashawn Alston, who ran for 132 yards in the game, responded with an 11-yard scoring run but the Skippers failed to convert the two-point try and trailed, 7-6.

Matt Carney connected with Michael Lucarelli on a 28-yard touchdown pass to give the Huskies a 14-6 lead in the first quarter. Cardinal added touchdown runs by Hogue and Trey Shirkey to extend its advantage to 26-6.

The Skippers didn’t go quietly.

“These kids have a lot of heart,” said Fairport coach Cameron Ruff. “They’ve invested a lot of time to themselves and to each other and to the coaches and the coaches have been giving it back to the kids. These kids are not the kind of kids who are going to lie down and quit. They’re going to keep playing until the final second like you saw tonight.”

Ethan Witt scooped up a fumble and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown and Cody Paugh ran in the two-point conversion to pull the Skippers to within 26-14 at halftime.

Shirkey, who ran for 220 yards on 20 carries, scored two second-half touchdowns on runs of 1 and 65 yards, and Hogue added another touchdown run in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring for Cardinal.

“The thing about 100 wins, I’ve never won a game here,” Cardinal said. “The kids win them. Look at what Trey did. Trey Shirkey broke two bones in his leg in the first game. He’s been out and he’s been down and he’s been sad. He’s been in anguish that he can’t play his senior year. He comes back last week and gets 35 yards and tonight he was not stoppable. He was running through those guys. He played with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart.”

The Skippers played with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart as well.

Sammy Schuster threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Alston in the third quarter and Rashawn Alston returned a kickoff 79 yards for a score in the fourth. Rashawn Alston also ran for a 55-yard score and Paugh caught a 59-yard touchdown pass with 3:44 left in the game to pull the Skippers to within 48-42.

Cardinal recovered the onside kick but the Skippers had one final shot to tie or take the lead. Their drive started at their own 20 and moved into Cardinal territory before a penalty and fourth down sack sealed Cardinal’s win.

The Skippers had two opportunities inside the red zone that came up empty, including a fourth-and-goal from the Cardinal two.

“That’s every football game, you always have your what ifs,” Ruff said. “It could be 56-0 against you and you always have the what ifs. There’s no perfect football game whether you win or lose. We’re aggressive; we’re going to go for it. Sometimes they come out on your side but we can’t fault the kids’ effort.”

Schuster completed 6-of-18 passes for 163 yards and two scores for the Skippers while Matt Carney was 6-for-15 for 113 yards and a touchdown for the Huskies.

Shirkey and Hogue combined for 386 rushing yards on 36 carries with the six touchdowns scored. Crossland Robinson hauled in two passes for 68 yards for Cardinal.

Paugh finished with the one carry for 59 yards and the touchdown for Fairport.

Cardinal (2-4) travels to Independence on Friday while Fairport hosts Kirtland.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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