The Division III state-favorite Chardon gridders (5-0) finally awakened from their first-quarter slumbers during a home collision with Western Reserve Conference foe Mayfield on Friday night at Memorial Field.
The Hilltoppers hadn’t scored in the opening frame since week-one football, when they put a 42-7 hurting on Eastlake North on Aug. 28. Since then, their first-stanza offense was blanked by Willoughby South, Kenston and Riverside.
Chardon 170-pound senior running back James Pettyjohn said no more, as he sprinted out of the gates with 66- and 72-yard touchdown runs for a 14-0 upper hand at the quarter mark. Pettyjohn found inside holes and then broke loose down the right sideline on both carries.
“It just starts with the blocking up front, and the guys that are blocking for me, like Evan Ash, the linemen, Sean Carr,” Pettyjohn said. “Without them, it’s hard to get outside and get going, but we practice that all week, and we practice getting to the outside, reading the holes, getting the cutups.
“That was our big test for the year, getting our offense moving early and putting a game together.”
Chardon’s defensive guys, who surrendered just two touchdowns through their first four games, were getting the pigskin moved on them in the second quarter against Mayfield, but the Hilltoppers stood firm on fourth downs.
Mayfield turned the ball over on downs at the Topper 31-yard line to open second quarter, and then Chardon 6-foot-1 senior quarterback Drew Fetchik turned around and dialed up 6-foot-3 junior tight end Alex McDonald for a 37-yard completion, which set up a 1-yard touchdown run for Fetchik and a 21-0 lead with 8:33 to go in the half.
“He’s mostly a blocking guy, but we have a lot of pass plays where he’s like the home-run guy,” Fetchik said of McDonald. “I threw to him a couple times earlier in the year, and they got broken up. So, I’m glad he got a catch. But he runs his routes well. He’s a great guy, great teammate.”
Later in the second quarter, Mayfield was stopped on fourth down again, this time at the Topper 16-yard line.
Chardon’s offense was finally forced to punt on its ensuing possession, but there was no return. The booted pigskin hit off the shin of a Wildcat and was recovered by Chardon senior Cade McDevitt on the Topper 43.
Fetchik went back to work and completed a 36-yard toss to 6-foot-5 senior receiver Brady Toth, which set up 205-pound senior running back Blake Barker’s 9-yard touchdown carry up the middle for a 28-0 upper hand with 2:05 remaining in the half.
While Chardon’s wing-T is set up to put the black and blue on opposing defenses in the trenches, Fetchik finished nine-of-14 passing for 165 yards to force the Wildcats to respect the aerial attack. Toth would finish with three catches for 73 yards.
“Well, yeah, it started off that they had like nine or 10 guys in the box, and then they were even creeping that corner in and just leaving that receiver out there,” Fetchik said. “So, if they were leaving it open, it’s like taking candy from a baby.”
Mayfield did provide an answer before the half. Wildcat 5-foot-10 senior quarterback Michael Huss completed a fourth-down toss to Nathan Moon for a 10-yard touchdown to cut their deficit, 28-7, with 13 seconds to spare before intermission. Huss was 16-of-29 passing for 147 yards for the night.
The Wildcats’ offense, which had 264 yards with 19 first downs, was on the move again to open the third quarter with a second-and-goal opportunity from the 1-yard line. But the ensuing snap was fumbled, and Chardon 230-pound senior lineman Gavin Slife recovered it in the end zone.
“I think that was the turning point in the game where we knew we had it in the bag,” Pettyjohn said. “That’s just who wants it more kind of thing right there. Our defense practices getting on the 1-yard line and stopping them. That’s how you change the game and show them what we’re about, because I would say we have one of the best defenses in the state of Ohio.”
Pettyjohn, who finished with 190 yards rushing, provided the Hilltoppers a 35-7 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run with 11:20 remaining in the game. Chardon finished with 300 yards rushing overall.
Mayfield 6-foot-1 senior playmaker Joey Dostal, who had four catches for 51 yards along with 84 yards rushing, answered on a 6-yard touchdown run to cut the Wildcats’ deficit, 35-14, with 9:48 to play, but that was all she wrote in yet another dominant victory for the Hilltoppers.
“Our defense was getting the ball moved around on them a little bit, and we started getting some adversity, but we practice for that,” Pettyjohn said. “Once we get a full game together on offense and defense, we’ll be unstoppable.”
Fetchik said, “I thought Mayfield was really tough. They were really well-coached, and they’re a really good team, and, yeah, they flew to the ball. And their quarterback and running back, they’re really good players. So, I’m glad we got a test, and they definitely made us better.”
Up next, Chardon will play Division II Brush Arcs (2-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at Korb Field.