Monday, February 26, 2024

Mathews, Ballentine lead Mentor to win at Strongsville

Alex Mathews and Michael Ballentine were too much for Strongsville to overcome as the Cardinals rallied for a 35-24 win at Pat Catan Stadium.

The Cardinals improved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Northeast Ohio Conference with their second straight victory.
Mathews ripped through the Mustang defense for 178 yards and three touchdowns in wet, unseasonably cold weather that placed a premium on the rushing attack. Defensively, Ballentine had seven tackles, four assists, two interceptions and returned a pick for a touchdown to help Mentor to a crucial road win.

Mathews had two of his three TDs in the second half as the Cardinals erased a 17-14 halftime deficit.

“In the first half, nothing went our way and we had a tough time getting our feet set on the grass, but we played really well in the second half,’ Trivisonno said.

Mathews cashed in TD runs of 16 yards and 12 yards on Mentor’s opening two possessions of the second half. Together with successful PATs by Cal Tommasone, the Cardinals staked themselves to a 28-17 lead.

The Cardinals got their final touchdown on a 39-yard interception return by Ballentine.

The Cardinals spent much of the first half recovering from their own mistakes and a red-hot start by the Mustangs and freshman quarterback Johnny Majors. Strongsville scored on its first two plays from scrimmages, getting TD runs of 31 yards by Majors and 74 yards by senior running back Zach Kahn to take a 14-0 lead.

In between those big plays, Mentor got a 40-yard TD pass from sophomore quarterback Tadas Tatarunas to sophomore receiver Logan Shea.

The Mentor defense limited the damage to one Strongsville field goal through the remainder of the first half despite two Mentor turnovers and a bad snap on a punt that gave Strongsville the ball at Mentor’s 9-yard-line.

Mentor’s offense capitalized in the last of those defensive stands, embarking on a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by Mathews’ 12-yard TD run.

Strongsville fell to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the NOC.

“There isn’t an easy game in this league, and our guys understand that, so to come back without a couple of starting wide receivers was huge,” Trivisonno said.

“It was a good win, but we have to keep working hard and keep improving on what we do because we have a couple of tough games still to play starting with this week at home against Brunswick. We still have a lot of football left to play.” 

Steve Hare
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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