Devils dominate rival
McDonald clobbers Mineral Ridge
McDONALD — The game may have looked like a mere mismatch to some.
An unbeaten team versus a one-win team. It may not have seemed like a very intriguing matchup to some area fans. Those not aware of the implications probably expected it do draw a few dozen fans.
Oh, no. To McDonald and Mineral Ridge, this was “the game.”
Hundreds showed up for one of the oldest rivalries in the Mahoning Valley, and Alex Cintron made sure they got their money’s worth.
The Blue Devils’ star tailback ran for 167 yards and had a spectacular 91-yard punt return as McDonald dominated the Rams, 48-0, in a Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference game.
Two weeks away from a pivotal showdown with Western Reserve, McDonald coach Dan Williams made sure his Blue Devils didn’t overlook the Rams.
“The kids know this is important to me, and it’s important to our program,” Williams said of the rivalry. “We come out and play hard against this rival. I think it’s the longest-standing consecutive rival in Trumbull County. … So it’s important. It’s important to a lot of folks here in town. The community really gets up for this. I think we had half the town at a bonfire last night. They still come out, whether it’s a 1-5 versus a 6-0 or we’re both 6-0. Our people still come out and support us.”
Now 7-0, the Blue Devils never gave Mineral Ridge (1-6) a chance in this one.
Cintron scored on the first play from scrimmage, taking a handoff, cutting across the field and outrunning several defenders for a 51-yard touchdown. McDonald quarterback Josh Celli, another standout runner, followed up Cintron’s TD about a minute and a half later with one of his own. He faked a handoff and darted up field for a 27-yard score.
The two combined for 249 rushing yards (more than twice Mineral Ridge’s total yardage of 116) and five touchdowns on 13 carries.
“He’s a special talent,” McDonald coach Dan Williams said of Cintron. “He can do it on both sides of the ball and special teams included. Him and Josh Celli are two of the best I’ve ever coached. Let’s just hope they continue to get better and we grow as a unit every week.”
Both are standouts on defense as well. Celli picked off his seventh pass of the season later in the game, but it was Cintron’s punt return that put the exclamation point on this one.
Leading 21-0 in the second quarter, Mineral Ridge’s best drive of the game ended at the Rams’ 40, and the ensuing punt took a long bounce and rolled toward the end zone. Cintron looked as if he would let it go before scooping up the ball at the 9. He shook off a would-be tackler and then made several players miss before outrunning the rest.
“He’s a playmaker,” Williams said. “He makes kids miss and he has a nose for the end zone. He scored four times tonight, so I think he’s up to 24 touchdowns in seven games. He’s one of those kids that gets better each week. He’s worked at it. He’s done the things he needs to do in the offseason and in season to get to this point.”
The rout was on from there, and there wasn’t much the Rams could do about it.
With just 24 players on the roster, Mineral Ridge already had its share of challenges, but then-coach Steve Wyllie was placed on administrative leave two weeks ago. No other details regarding his absence were disclosed. Regardless, it left the Rams and interim coach Andy Apisa in a tough spot.
“You’re just dealing with what’s given to you,” said Apisa, a defensive assistant who also coaches track and teaches within the district. “Any issues that were created beforehand, you’re trying to handle, and when you don’t expect it, it happens like that, and I was a little blind-sided by it.
“You just do the best you can and try to manage.”
He and Mineral Ridge had too much to handle Friday.
The Blue Devils ran for 305 yards and held the Rams to just 69 rushing yards on 31 carries. Cintron averaged 33.4 yards per carry, and he said the Blue Devils weren’t about to overlook the Rams.
“It’s a rivalry for us,” he said. “Coach tells us about that throughout the week and really stresses it to make sure we’re ready. We take this game as serious as every other game, and we did that tonight.”