Fourth and no: Mooney falters in the red zone

By Brian Dzenis


The necessary points Cardinal Mooney needed to defeat Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary remained just out of reach.

Three failed trips to the red zone highlighted the Cardinals’ 28-7 loss to the Irish at Stambaugh Stadium Friday night.

At distances of eight, four and 13 yards from the end zone in the first three quarters, Mooney (2-2) saw its drives stall on fourth down.

“Being down in that red zone so many times — especially early in the game — and not come away with any points, I think that changes the complexity of the game,” Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said. “I think it changed the momentum of the game and is a big factor when you can put points [on the scoreboard] when you’re down there early in a ballgame.”

Each of the three fourth downs were tricky distances with Mooney electing to pass in all three situations. In the first quarter, there was a fourth-and-5 at the Irish 8 and John Murphy’s heave to the end zone was incomplete.

With 23 seconds left until halftime, the Cardinals had a fourth and 2 at SVSM’s 4. That sequence ended with another pass into the turf.

In the final seconds of the third quarter, Mooney faced a fourth-and-4 at SVSM’s 13. Murphy dropped back to pass, rolled to his right and got sacked for the turnover on downs.

“Those were game-time decisions of putting ourselves in the best position to score,” Fecko said. “It was unfortunate that we caught the short end especially when you can move the ball the length of the field and then stall down there.”

Between the 20s, Mooney was moving around at a decent pace. The Cardinals were the beneficiaries of 13 Irish penalties for 155 yards compared to the home side’s lone 5-yard foul — an offsides call on an Irish extra point.

“I’ll keep my mouth shut, but there were things that I wasn’t too excited about,” Irish coach Robert Nickol said. “It was about overcoming obstacles. We had a lot thrown our way tonight — a variety of things that were out of our control.”

Akron SVSM (3-1) got 154 yards and three rushing touchdowns from running back Terrance Keyes Jr. — who also completed a 30-yard pass.

His best run of the game was for his first score in the second quarter where he broke off a 52-yard run that had an inauspicious start. He ran into the backside of 6-foot-9, 340-pound junior offensive guard Savion Washington, but bounced off the giant lineman and took off for the races.

Mooney’s Dom Byrd fumbled at midfield a short time later set up Keyes Jr.’s second TD. He scored again on the opening drive of the second half and the Irish benefited from a 77-yard punt return from Joshua Jones to set up a short scoring run from Jumacius Portis.

Murphy was 10 for 24 for 121 passing yards while rushing for 54 yards and his team’s only touchdown in the third quarter on a QB sneak. He was sacked five times.

Byrd rushed for 81 yards. On defense, Mike Scavina pulled in an interception and Cheriff Jamison had a sack.

Friday’s loss marked the first time the Irish — an old playoff rival of the Cardinals — won in Stambaugh Stadium.

“[I’ve heard] about it every other day for two months now,” Nickol said. “It was definitely a focus, but the biggest thing was making sure the kids were mentally prepared and we were definitely mentally prepared.”

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