STRASBURG Two Inter-Valley Conference football teams coming off tough weeks clashed at Franklin Park on Friday night.
It turned into the Michael Lawless Show for much of the game as the Tuscarawas Central Catholic quarterback passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more scores in sparking the Saints to a 32-14 victory over the Strasburg Tigers.
“I like running the ball best,” said Lawless, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior. “I had a lot of good blocks leading me, and I’ve gotten a lot faster since last season.”
Lawless rushed for 183 yards on 28 attempts and the left-hander was 8-for-13 in the air for 111 yards.
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Both teams were coming off rough games last week in which their defenses combined to yield 127 points.
“We were looking forward to this game, because it’s a good rivalry,” said Lawless.
“Both of us were hungry for a win and we took it to them.”
First-year coach Casey Cummings of the Saints was thrilled with his team’s performance.
“This game was therapy for us,” Cummings said. “Our defense was better tonight and we were facing a different style of offense.
“Strasburg has a solid group of kids and we rose up and matched their toughness,” he added. “We got back to the nuts and bolts tonight and it was a fun game.”
Central Catholic (4-2, 1-2) took a 7-0 lead after receiving the opening kickoff, marching 70 yards in nine plays. Lawless lofted a 30-yard touchdown pass to Michael Teater for the score and Neko Von Linger booted the extra point.
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Strasburg, meanwhile, could get nothing going offensively in the first half as its drives ended in three punts and one interception.
The Saints, who outgained the Tigers 193-39 in offense during the first two quarters, extended their lead to 13-0 midway through the second period when Lawless scored on a bootleg around right end from 4 yards out. That drive covered 44 yards after Alex Milleman intercepted a Strasburg pass.
A 76-yard drive in seven plays gave Central Catholic a 19-0 halftime advantage. This time Lawless scored on a 13-yard run with only 40 seconds to go in the second stantza.
It became a 25-0 Central advantage when Lawless hit Cade Cummings with a 17-yard TD pass at the 4:43 mark of the third frame.
Strasburg was not about to roll over, however.
The Tigers moved 51 yards in only five plays, capped by a 36-yard touchdown toss from Kole Bitikofer to Solomon Walker. Marek Walczek’s kick made it 25-7 with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
After forcing the Saints to punt, Strasburg got on the scoreboard again early in the final period when Landry Hostetler ran 1 yard for a touchdown to make it 25-14.
There was 8:31 remaining in the game, and Central Catholic reversed the Tigers’ momentum with a 14-play, 69-yard scoring march which consumed seven minutes. Alex Lawless got the touchdown from a yard out.
“Lawless made big plays all night,” said Strasburg coach Jimm Morris.
“Offensively, we’re still learning things that are new for us. I thought Kole kept his poise in the second half, and both Walker and Jordan Turek made some big plays for us. Our line played well in the second half.”
Bitikofer passed for 153 yards as the junior completed 12 of 24 passes. The Tigers were limited to 34 yards on the ground.
“We played the game the way it was meant to be,” Morris said. “We fought tooth and nail but just came up short.”