Conotton Valley upends St. John

The St. John Central Fighting Irish looked to gain their second win of the 2012 campaign after they stole a late one in Week 1 at Wheeling Island stadium.

Saturday proved to come down to the second half as well, only not as favorable for the Green-and-White when they hosted the Rockets of Conotton Valley for a sun soaked and humid noon kickoff. The Rockets knocked off the Fighting Irish by a margin of 34-21.

“We were there first half making plays.” first-year Irish head coach Jason Merryman exclaimed.

To start things off, both teams swapped 3-an-outs before DJ Shoemaker would pick off a Colton Cottis pass on the opening play of the Rockets’ second drive. The Irish would need just 10 plays to put the first points on the board, with the drive being capped off by an Alex Francis reception from Shoemaker on a jump ball in the left corner of the end zone. Dario Paolina’s PAT was good for a 7-0 lead.

Conotton Valley made its first marks on the board early in the second quarter with a 9-play, 44-yard scoring drive. Jett Masters, the Rockets’ senior running back, reached the end zone from five yards out. Brandon Bailey’s PAT would fall short, leaving the visitors on the short end of a 7-6 count.

On the next St John drive, it moved the ball from its own 19 down to the Conotton 35 before Shoemaker would be picked off by Taylor Bowdish, who scampered 76 yards back the other way for the score. This time Bailey’s PAT would split the uprights.

On the ensuing kickoff, Alex Francis would take the kickoff back the other way for a 74-yard return before being forced out of bounds on the Rockets’ 7-yard line. The Green would need several attempts to finish the drive. After a false start penalty, Francis would step up again from three yards out on a wide receiver sweep, busting in on 4th-and-goal. Paolina’s PAT would be good, leaving the score at 14-13 SJC heading into half.

In the third quarter, Conotton would answer with 8:09 left, as Tommy Rodriguez snagged a Cottis pass from five yards out. Bailey’s PAT would go through the uprights.

Just into the fourth quarter, Bowdish took a Cottis handoff and stumbled up the field causing a hand full of Fighting Irish defenders to miss, going 30 yards for the score. Bailey’s PAT was successful, extending the Rockets lead to 27-14 with 11:51 ticks left in the game.

“Defensively, we just had some breakdowns. We didn’t make the tackles when we needed to,” the Irish head coach would point out.

Shoemaker would re-inforce his coaches words just 21 ticks later as he broke free, scrambling for 45 yards to close the margin to one possession at 27-21.

That was as close of a comeback as SJC could muster switching possessions on punts the next two drives. The last Irish drive was halted on loss of downs. Shoemaker would drop back looking in the open space for a receiver as his offensive line was split, causing him to scramble from pressure. He would get a throw off as he was hit with Jacob Hoover running under the pass for a loss of three yards, turning the ball over for the final time.

“There’s no quit in them” Merryman admitted of his young squad.

Leading the way for the Irish were Nick Cervelli and Shoemaker rushing for 79 and 69, respectively. Shoemaker also collected a touchdown while completing 8 of 16 passes on the night. The Irish continue their season in Week 3 as they face off against the Wildcats of Paden City on the road. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.