Niles goes to air to top 'Cats

Steve Mientkiewicz hit several passes, and was backed by a strong defense and some breaks.
NILES -- Meet the new pass-happy Red Dragons. Well, sort of.
With a strong Struthers defense stifling the running game, Niles McKinley High coach Bill Bohren used a proficient passing attack from quarterback Steve Mientkiewicz to beat Struthers 14-7 Thursday night at Bo Rein Stadium.
Mientkiewicz attempted only five passes but completed four of them for 61 yards and a touchdown.
"Tonight, Niles beat us on passing," said Struthers coach Gary Zetts. "It's impossible and it happened."
Dunn delivers: Niles (3-5, 2-2 Metro Athletic Conference) also won because of an excellent defensive effort and a couple breaks, the most notable being a partially blocked punt early in the fourth quarter. With the score tied at 7 Struthers' Nick Leiter attempted a punt at his own 29. Niles lineman Mike Dunn broke through to get a piece of Leiter's punt, which rolled dead 12 yards down-field.
Two plays later, Mientkiewicz found Eric Ashburn for 22 yards to the Wildcat 13. After a first down run by Lou Viglio, Ashburn lined up at quarterback and ran a keeper to the right side for a 2-yard score to make it 14-7.
"We weren't getting off the ball quickly and we went to the passing game and hit a couple key passes," Bohren said. "We got lucky a couple times but they got lucky going the other way so it evened out."
Biggest break: Struthers (4-4, 1-2) got their biggest break of the game in the third quarter on their lone scoring drive.
The Wildcats had a first and 10 at their own 22, and Leiter fumbled the ball and it went through the hands of a Niles defender before Leiter was able to recover.
The next play, Leiter hit wide-out Jason Martin, who ripped the ball out of Ashburn's hands, and ran 55 yards to the Niles 26.
Six plays later, senior running back Jim Tabak took the ball at the 5-yard line, ran through the left side of the line, broke four tackles and twirled his way into the end zone for Struthers' only score.
"We thought we dominated the game, but we gave up a couple big plays and we got ourselves in a hole and couldn't get out," Zetts said. "Physically, the effort was there, but we keep making mental mistakes. It's the eighth week of the season and we're still making mental mistakes."
Sacks: Tabak finished with 23 carries for 91 yards and Leiter finished with 24 carries for 58 yards. Nine of Leiter's carries went for negative yardage, including sacks by Niles' Tony Caicco, Dunn, Don Fridley, Craig Barrett and Jim Reppy.
Reppy's sack came with the Wildcats driving with under two minutes remaining and forced two straight desperation heaves by Leiter, who finished 4-of-14 for 95 yards.
"The key for us is defensive teamwork," Reppy said. "We all work together and Coach has been sticking with us. Not a lot of the guys played varsity last year because we had such a great senior class. Now we're finally coming together as a team."
Viglio ran 21 times for 83 yards.
TD pass: Niles struck first on their second offensive series when Mientkiewicz hit wide-out Ashburn on a 33-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0.
Struthers responded with a 13-play, 66-yard drive but Leiter was wide left on a 23-yard field goal attempt on the first play of the second quarter.
Struthers sophomore Dave Allen blocked Bill Sullivan's 32-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter.