McDowell quarterback AJ Fenton: “This one earned us some respect”
Written by: Josh Funk on Saturday, October 11th, 2008
MILLCREEK TOWNSHIP, Pa. – McDowell quarterback AJ Fenton took some postgame congratulations from some students still hanging around Gus Anderson Field Friday night. Fenton’s Trojans had just wrapped up hosting the #3-ranked team in the nation, the Gateway Gators, the first time a nationally-ranked Pennsylvania team played a game in Erie County since 2000.
“I think the games against McKeesport and this one (Gateway) earned us some respect,” the Wisconsin-bound Fenton said. “But we want more than respect – we want to start winning these big games.”
McDowell nearly did win – cutting the Gateway lead to 24-18 with 3:14 left in the game, but Brian Williams’ 77-yard touchdown run ended any hope of a McDowell upset, as the Gators (7-0) escaped with a hard-fought 30-18 victory over the Trojans (4-3).
“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Gateway head coach Terry Smith. “The (100 mile) trip is tough itself, and you’re playing a great team with a great player in AJ Fenton.”
Smith has a great team himself, one which has upwards of eight Division-1 prospects, according to a Gateway administrator, including four D-1 verbal commitments. But early on, it appeared McDowell would steal the show.
“I think it was a great character game for us because the kids didn’t quit,” McDowell head coach Mark Soboleski said. “If they don’t quit, we’ve got a chance every week.”
On the Trojans’ opening drive of the game, Fenton hit a 24-yard pass and a 39-yard run, which was capped with a field goal, giving McDowell a 3-0 lead.
Gateway fired right back. Junior field general Rob Kalkstein found Corey Brown on a nine-yard fade pattern to make it 7-3, Gateway. It was Brown’s 11th touchdown reception of the year.
“We’ve got a little connection; we’ve been doing this for three years,” Brown said.
But the scoring suddenly shut off. Neither team could really budge the other, or for that matter put a sustainable drive together. The Gators’ Ryan Lichtenstein did miss a 41-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter which would have made it 10-3.
So you would think the Gateway mood at halftime was somber, right? Drive 100+ miles to get locked in a battle an potentially get its first defeat at the hands of a very game McDowell squad?
“We were upbeat (at halftime),” Smith said. “We knew that we were making some mistakes that were keeping us out of the end zone. This team is one that doesn’t look at disappointment or negativity.”
Aiding the Gators was the presence of Dorian Bell, who sat out the first half for undisclosed reasons. His first four carries of the second half yielded 42 rushing yards and four Gateway first downs.
After forcing a McDowell punt, and after Kalkstein (129 pass yards, TD, INT) connected on a 41-yard pass, Bell scored on a two-yard touchdown run to make it 14-3.
McDowell countered with a Fenton six-yard pass. The Trojans made it 14-11 with Fenton’s successful two-point conversion run. But the Trojan three-point deficit was to be short-lived.
Josh Vermeulen returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown, and Gateway quickly pushed its lead to 21-11.
Brown recovered a Fenton fumble on McDowell’s possession, which led to a Lichtenstein 36-yard field goal to give the Gators a 24-11 lead with 4:25 left in the game.
But McDowell wasn’t done. Fenton led the Trojans on an 80-yard drive, during which he dialed up pass completions of 20 and 36 yards. The 36-yarder was Fenton’s second touchdown pass of the night, slicing Gateway’s lead to 24-18.
That’s when Williams’ 77-yard run iced the cake.
“Coach Smith says big players step up in big games,” Williams said. He finished with 191 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Bell added 57 rushing yards on 9 carries, and Brown had two catches for 25 yards, returned two punts for six yards, and had a fumble recovery on defense.
Fenton paced McDowell with 148 rushing yards on 26 rushes and 137 passing yards and two touchdowns on 8-of-15 passing.
Fullback Alex Schmude chipped in with 14 rushes for 54 yards for McDowell, which racked up 351 yards of offense and 17 first downs.
Fenton kept a positive perspective about things.
“We didn’t win the game, but we grew a lot as a team,” Fenton said.
Ditto for Gateway, which needed a close game like this, according to Williams.
“This team (McDowell) gave us a boost so we could be ready for the playoffs,” #32 said.
Follow WesternPAFootball.com on Twitter @WPAFootball