Niles defense gets it done in win
||All-American Conference Red Tier
||All-American Conference White Tier
Srbinovich, Red Dragons take control
in second half to beat Struthers in AAC
By Steve ruman
After seeing his team give up 91 points in its first two games, Niles McKinley High coach Brian Shaner was looking for a “turn the corner” moment from his defense.
Shaner believes he may have found what he was looking for in the Red Dragons’ 39-24 home win over All-American Conference foe Struthers on Friday night at Bo Rein Stadium.
With the win, the Red Dragons lift their record to 2-1. Two days after having its record go to 2-0 courtesy of a forfeit, Struthers falls to 2-1.
Trailing 16-12 at the half, Niles gave up a quick third-period score to see its deficit build to 24-12. However from that point on it was all Red Dragons. After giving up 167 yards in the first half, the Dragons held Struthers to just 62 yards of total offense after intermission.
“We had a great week of practice, they’re finally understanding what we want them to do and tonight they got after a great football team,” Shaner said. “I think they are finally getting it. Tonight they played great, very inspired football.”
Quarterback Tyler Srbinovich once again led the Dragons’ offense. The junior completed 10 of 18 passes for 155 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. He also rushed 31 times for 146 yards and four touchdowns.
“Tyler is tough as nails,” Shaner said. “He does everything we ask of him, I don’t know what else he can do. He’s an amazing kid and an amazing teammate who will be the first to tell you he can’t do what he does without his surrounding cast.”
A pair of early turnovers proved costly for Struthers. On their first possession, a Wildcats fumble led to a 22-yard Srbinovich-to-Marlon Pearson touchdown pass. The Wildcats then muffed the ensuing kickoff, and that led to a Srbinovich nine-yard run to paydirt.
Struthers rebounded to score three consecutive touchdowns. Tekale Rushton pulled in scoring passes of 23 and 49 yards from quarterback A.J. Musolino (11-of-16, 175 yards). The junior signal-caller also rushed in from a yard out, giving the Wildcats 24-12 lead with 10:32 left in the third quarter.
However, Niles answered with touchdowns of its own on its next four possessions.
“We really haven’t been very good defensively lately, and we faced some adversity in the first half,” said Niles senior linebacker David Palm. “We came out in the second half and played as a team. There were eleven guys out there playing for each other and that made the difference.”
“We kind of got tired of hearing about how bad we were defensively, but we deserved it. I think tonight we might have turned the corner and put ourselves in a good position for the rest of the season.”
Shaner, who led the Dragons to the playoffs in his first season in 2012, called Friday’s win “one of the biggest” of his tenure at Niles.
“For us to get this win against a team that had beaten us three straight years, I believe this could be a springboard for the rest of the season,” Shaner said. “We were a different team out there tonight.”
Struthers will look to rebound next week at Jefferson. Niles hosts East.