Walk this Waid
Defense, QB key Girard’s big win
WARREN — Mark Waid looked at his student section hovering over the entrance to the John F. Kennedy locker room.
His teammates were on the field waiting for their signal-caller.
Waid, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior quarterback, was being lauded for his 422 yards rushing and passing in Girard’s dominating 42-7 victory over the Eagles Saturday at Mollenkopf Stadium.
Waid was 17-of-27 for 281 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 13 carries for 131 yards and another score.
Last thing this Girard junior wanted to do is take credit for his performance. His offensive line opened up gaping holes in the Kennedy defense, so wide it gave Waid at least a 5-yard cushion on most carries. This front line also provided plenty of protection as Michael Belcik, Devin Wilson, Nick Maltio and Anthony Backus were beneficiaries of Waid’s passes. Wilson led the way with five receptions for 138 yards. Belcik and Backus each had 64 yards receiving.
Waid had one- and two-play drives resulting in touchdowns almost spanning half the field.
With a first-and-10 with 54 seconds before halftime, Waid wiggled out of a potential JFK sack and found Wilson running down the left side. The two connected for the first of two touchdown passes. This one with 45 seconds remaining before intermission gave the Indians (3-0) a 21-7 lead heading into the break.
“My offensive line is incredible,” Waid said. “Their work ethic is off the charts. I’ve never been around a group as motivated and as hungry as them. They’re what makes this possible. They work so hard. I can’t be more proud of them.
“They opened up ginormous holes for everybody.”
Girard dominated the line of scrimmage with 464 total yards, but it was the Indians’ defense which complemented Saturday’s effort.
Girard held Kennedy (2-1) to 34 carries for 40 yards and 5 of 8 for 28 yards pasing and an interception to end the half.
Indians coach Pat Pearson, who saw his team go 5-15 the last two seasons, sees the transformation in this Girard team — one remincent of a team destined for a possible postseason run.
“We’re known for offense at Girard,” Pearson said. “We score a lot of points. We play wide open. We have a great set of skill players. We know that. The years we’ve had success here is the years that defense comes along.
“That group, there’s 11, 12, 13, 14 guys in that group that have committed this year to changing that. I’m so proud of that group, just fighting, believing, playing together, flying around hitting people.”
Kennedy’s lone moment of solace came late in the second quarter as Eagles’ defender Ross DeSalvo recovered one of two Girard fumbles with 4:37 before halftime — putting the ball at the Indians 40.
Gregory Valent, who led the Eagles with 10 carries for 19 yards, went off tackle on fourth-and-3 with 1:43 before halftime. He followed his blockers and pulled away from the Girard secondary for an 18-yard score, cutting the Indians’ lead to 14-7.
This was JFK’s first loss since a Week 9 setback to Villa Angela-St. Joseph in 2016. Kennedy is the defending Division VII state champions.
This was Girard’s first victory over the Eagles since 2014 when the Indians last went to the playoffs and finished 8-3.
Pearson said as good as this victory might be, there’s still seven weeks remaining.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for coach (Jeff) Bayuk and this program here,” said Pearson, whose team hosts Champion this Friday. “They’ve set the standard of what a program should be. We’re awful proud that our guys rose up tonight to take the next step.
“Three games don’t define a season.”
As well as Girard’s offense played Saturday, JFK’s Bayuk knows full well it was the Indians’ defense that hampered his team.
“I think the story of this game is the Girard defense,” said Bayuk, whose team hosts Crestview this coming Saturday. “I think they did a great job.
“You can’t give that offense with Waid the ball that many times without expecting bad things to happen. We know they’re a good football team. We knew it when we watched film. We’re a little disappointed in the way we performed tonight. That starts with me.”