“It was just a great team win for us,” said Margaretta coach Todd Pooch, a former Western Reserve assistant.
Six Margaretta players found the end zone.
Western coach Ty Stevenson said the Polar Bears’ early lead, combined with a blocked punt in the opening minutes, hurt his team.
“The kids played hard. That’s a good football team on the other side,” he added. “When Margaretta gets some momentum, they’re really good.”
The Polar Bears (1-0) scored on the second play of the game. Quarterback Nick Leibacher connected with Brevan Moore on a 49-yard catch-and-run play. Then with less two minutes more off the clock, Margaretta blocked a Western punt and took the ball 27 yards into the end zone.
Leibacher was 11-of-21 for 227 yards, three TDs and an interception. He connected with six receivers.
“What was working for us right away is being able to spread them out. Brevan Moore had a fantastic ball game; he was all over the field. What really helped was the blocked punt; we’d been talking about it all week (and) the coaches put it in,” said Pooch, who credited assistant coach Steve Gravenhorst for the play call. “It was the right time; we decided to do it right away.”
In the first quarter, Moore had a 51-yard punt return, which gave the Polar Bears the ball at Western’s 10-yard line. Bryceten Hedden capped off the short drive with 5-yard plunge to pay dirt. Each of Margaretta’s first three extra-point attempts failed, but with 4:43 left in the first quarter, the visitors were up 18-0.
“We’ve got to keep our focus. I give Western a lot of credit. We blitzed them pretty good in the first quarter (and) they responded and that goes to their coaching staff and the kind of kids they have over there. They kept fighting,” Pooch said.
“Our kids need to learn once we get a team down, we’ve got to put them away. If you let a team hang around long enough, they start to believing they can win and we’re in for a dog fight.”
Western got its first points with 3:32 in the second quarter on an 89-yard drive. Hayden Huntington grabbed a 11-yard TD pass from quarterback JJ Weisenberger. The PAT cut Margaretta’s lead to 18-7.
Hedden capped off a 65-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run. Margaretta was 24-7 with 1:14 until halftime.
“The (interception) right before the half really hurt us. We were in a great position and we didn’t make a play; we have to make a play in that kind of (situation),” Pooch said.
Just before time expired in the second quarter, Western QB Weisenberger hit Cory Hipp on a 35-yard pass for a score. The Roughriders went into the locker room trailing 24-13.
Margaretta blanked the ’Riders in the third quarter. Leibacher hit Tallen Kennedy on a 12-yard TD pass with 4:39 left in the period and another pass, this time a 27-yarder to Mitch Raifsnider. The two scores gave the Polar Bears a 37-13 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Western defensive back Adam Lewis grabbed an interception and took it 7 yards for pay dirt for the final score early in the fourth period.
Each team has non-league games Friday. The ’Riders travel to Edison while Margaretta plays at Monroeville.
Follow Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby on Facebook at “Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger” and on Twitter at @Cary_reporter.