BELLAIRE - With a steady rain falling and the turf at the Irish Youth Sports Complex getting muddier by the minute, running games for Bishop Donahue and St. John Central quickly became the central focus of both squads' gameplans.
Andrew Cunningham ran for 176 yards and Matt Vucelik rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns as Bishop Donahue racked up 338 yards on the ground en route to a 26-6 triumph against the Irish.
ST. JOHN’S Devon Hennesey returns a punt during the first quarter of Saturday’s game against Bishop Donaue. Also pictured is Cameron Opic (15). Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
The victory got the Bishops (3-1) back on the winning track one week after falling to Clay-Battelle in a clash of two of West Virginia's top Class A squads.
The Cee Bees visit St. John next week for Homecoming.
''Our offensive line is gelling more and they were opening up huge holes,'' Bishop Donahue head coach John Durdines noted. ''(St. John) was putting eight or nine in the box.
''With the weather, (St. John) knew we weren't going to try to throw it and we were still able to get the running game going. But to finish off teams, you need to hang on to the football. Too many turnovers.''
The Bishops fumbled the ball six times, losing four. The Irish (0-4) fumbled the ball four four times, losing two.
''We have to be more focused,'' Durdines added. ''You can blame the weather all you want, but both teams had to deal with it and we had far more turnovers than they did.
''I give their kids credit. They held on to the ball.''
But Donahue took advantage of its opportunities.
''We had a couple of bounces go our way, but we didn't capitalize when we needed to and we couldn't get our offense moving,'' St. John head coach Jeff Paolina said.
Credit Donahue's defense for that. The Irish had 59 yards of total offense.
''We wanted to set the tome with our defense and, what can you say, I thought our defense played outstanding,'' Durdines said.
Neither team cracked the scoreboard until early in the second quarter when Vucelik scampered in from five yards out to make the score 6-0. The conversion run failed.
The big play on the eight-play, 80-yard drive came with the Bishops faced with 3rd-and-12 at their own 22. There, quarterback Hunter Kaschke found Chance Truex for a 25-yard strike. It was the only pass completion of the drive.
Kaschke was filling in for the injured Jesse Padlow. The Bishops were also without standout Lavonte Hampton.
St. John was forced to punt on its ensuing possession, but pinned the Bishops deep in their own territory at the 15.
Cunningham carried for 22 yards on the first play, however. Then, two plays later, Vucelik finished off the drive with a 64-yard jaunt to paydirt. Again, the 2-point try failed and the score remained 12-0.
Donahue started its next series deep in its own end, at its 16, and, again, a TD was the result. Cunningham and Riedel took care of the first half of the drive with runs, while Kaschke took care of the latter portion with his arm. The quarterback hit Brett Moore with a 28-yard strike before hooking up with Jared Yates from 24 yards out with 7.8 seconds left in the first half. Cunningham's 2-point conversion run made the score 20-0.
With less than 7 minutes left in the game, St. John recovered one of the Bishops' miscues at the Donahue 23. Three plays later, Dario Paolina hit Kyle Whorton in stride for a 34-yard touchdown that brought the Irish to within 20-6.
But Vucelik provided the Bishops with some insurance on the next offensive play, scampering 54 yards to the end zone to cap the scoring with 5:03 remaining.
Dario Paolina finished with 119 yards passing for the Irish.
''We played well, but we gave up a couple of big plays,'' Jeff Paolina said. ''But I'm not frustrated. We'll keep coming back and put it together where we can get a victory.''
Bishop Donahue travels to Clarksburg next Saturday to face another Irish squad in Notre Dame.