Mer­ri­field sparks West

Quar­ter­back com­pletes 13 of his first 14 passes for 153 yards dur­ing his first ca­reer start.

The Times-Tribune - - HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL - BY MARTY MY­ERS STAFF WRITER

S. CANAAN TWP. — Backup quar­ter­back Cay­den Mer­ri­field didn’t play like a sopho­more.

Mak­ing his first start, Mer­ri­field con­nected on 13 of his first 14 passes for 153 yards and led three scor­ing drives, and the sev­enth-ranked In­vaders pulled off a me­thod­i­cal 21-7 win over No. 3 Western Wayne in Fri­day night’s Lack­awanna Foot­ball Con­fer­ence Di­vi­sion II matchup at Sharkey Rosetti Sta­dium.

“His poise and per­for­mance, he was very com­fort­able in that po­si­tion, he had a good week of prac­tice,” West Scran­ton coach Brian Fa­hey said. “I’m re­ally thrilled with the way he per­formed. And the team re­sponded and ral­lied around him.”

With start­ing quar­ter­back Nick Gioia sit­ting out for vi­o­lat­ing a team pol­icy, the In­vaders turned to run­ning back Kevin Wil­liams in a 13-play, 70-yard drive that chewed 6½ min­utes off the clock. Ryan Bianco capped it with a 1-yard plunge for a 7-0 lead, but most im­por­tantly, Mer­ri­field

got the chance to set­tle any nerves.

“I was just very con­fi­dent that the team had my back,” Mer­ri­field said. “I just did what I had to do.”

Western Wayne an­swered on its sec­ond pos­ses­sion, a 6-minute drive that saw Kobe Sauter tie the game on a 2-yard run with 2:16 left in the half.

It was the only drive that the Wild­cats (5-3 over­all, 1-2 di­vi­sion) fin­ished. Western Wayne was stopped at the West 27, 39, 23 and 25.

“We just had a bend but don’t break men­tal­ity,” West de­fen­sive end Jalen Gre­gory said. “I ex­pect that from our de­fense. We did what we had to do to stop them. We all know we have a job to do and we all go out and per­form that spe­cific job that we have.

“We play our hard­est ev­ery game, ev­ery play.”

Aided by a per­sonal foul penalty and Mer­ri­field’s 22-yard hookup with Pay­ton Davis, the In­vaders (5-3, 1-2) took the lead for good just be­fore half­time. Wil­liams, who fin­ished with 142 yards on 27 car­ries, scored on a 1-yard run with 24 sec­onds left for a 14-7 lead.

West’s de­fense held again to start the third, hauling down quar­ter­back Dy­lan Walck on a fourth-down op­tion run at the In­vaders’ 23.

“You can’t give enough credit to coach Fa­hey and his staff,” Western Wayne coach Randy Wolff said. “West was pre­pared for what we like to do. They took away a cou­ple things that we needed to ad­just to and at times it worked out for us. But when it needed to most, when we were down there, we had a hard time ex­e­cut­ing.”

West put the game away on its next se­ries — thanks to Mer­ri­field.

He hooked up with Avery Mcauliffe for 20 yards, then found Gre­gory for 17 more.

Four more com­ple­tions, in­clud­ing a 21-yarder to Davis, set up Ma­son Spano’s 1-yard run to cap the scor­ing with 3:33 left in the third.

“Cay­den is a very heady foot­ball player,” Fa­hey said. “He’s a good ath­lete, a three-sport ath­lete. He’s a point guard in bas­ket­ball, short­stop in base­ball, so be­ing at quar­ter­back wasn’t an un­com­fort­able thing for him. He’s a nat­u­ral leader.

“But Coach (Evan) Prall called a great game and the of­fense ex­e­cuted re­ally well. Credit to all of them.”

JESSE CAREY / CON­TRIBUT­ING PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

West Scran­ton’s Kevin Wil­liams fights for a touch­down with 24 sec­onds re­main­ing in the first half Fri­day against Western Wayne.

JESSE CAREY / CON­TRIBUT­ING PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

West Scran­ton QB Cay­den Mer­ri­field breaks out of the pocket af­ter be­ing pres­sured by Western Wayne’s Ja­cob Brodowski.

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