Mayfield Wildcats quarterback Drazen Markovic was having a miserable evening – he had been sacked several times, banged mercilessly to the ground on running plays and began cramping in the third quarter at Nordonia.
In only his second career start at quarterback, this being-the-team-leader thing wasn’t going too well for him. For a time, Markovic was having a Friday night to forget, but he ended up casting the game’s most lasting memory.
With a nearly miraculous touchdown throw to senior Jonathan Mangelluzzi and a risky two-point conversion pass to junior Anthony Canganelli in overtime, Markovic lead the Wildcats to a 22-21 win in the season opener for both teams.
Markovic threw for 315 yards on 20-of-47 passing with two touchdowns. He had 56 yards on 27 rushing attempts and ran one in for a score. He also threw an interception. Chris Reimer led the Wildcats with eight catches for 127 yards.
“Originally, we called a kick, but we didn’t convert on one kick. And you know what? We said why not go for it. Give it a shot,” Markovic said. “We put it on our backs and (Canganelli) made a hell of a play. He made a great cut and got in.”
Had Canganelli not made the catch, the Wildcats would have lost, of course, and he would have been the school’s goat for a least a week. Instead, he can walk the halls of Mayfield High School knowing he’s the one who put a fine point on Mayfield bucking the percentages that demand kicking the ball for a tie.
“Outside receivers, Mitch Long and Chris Reimer, made beautiful blocks, and it just allowed me to cut right up into the end zone,” Canganelli said.
Markovic is correct as Mayfield’s struggling kicking game nearly gave the Wildcats the boot. The team floundered on five kicking attempts including two blocked field goals, two missed field goals and a shanked point-after try.
After a Nordonia touchdown tied the game, 14-14, in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats found themselves on the doorstep of a winning score only to witness a 33-yard, field-goal attempt sputter wide left on the final play of regulation.
Nordonia’s Jordan Nobles, who finished with 111 yards on 24 attempts, found the end zone on two plays finishing with a 15-yard run to put the Knights up, 21-14, in the first offensive series of overtime.
Markovic was called for intentional grounding as Nordonia’s Nyck Grayson nearly chased him down for a sack. The spot foul pushed the ball back to the Nordonia 34. But on the next play, Markovic found Mangelluzzi in the left corner of the end zone as he got by a defender for the score.
“I knew I had him,” Mangelluzzi said. “I beat him a few plays earlier.”
Despite the dire circumstances, Mayfield coach Larry Pinto had faith in his guys in the overtime session.
“I think our backs were really against the wall. They came out and scored in two plays. We had second and forever. At that point, it was looking bleak. Our kids never quit. I told them let it be a life lesson that no matter how bad it looks, if you believe, good things will happen,” Pinto said.
Early in the game, after Knight defender Brandon Hrelja intercepted Markovic, Nordonia quarterback Tyler Alders found Victor Hudson along the left sideline as he broke a tackle and leaned in for a 24-yard TD at 8:19 of the first quarter to cap a seven-play drive.
Markovic skipped through a few Nordonia tacklers to cap a six-play drive with 38.1 seconds left in the first quarter, but a missed extra point had the Wildcats trailing, 7-6.
The Wildcats shot ahead in the fourth quarter as Markovic found Alex LoPiccolo for a 10-yard strike to finish off a 17-play drive. A Markovic conversion run put the Wildcats up, 14-7.
But Alders quickly rallied the Knights in the ensuing drive and found Denzel Ward for a 5-yard TD throw to knot up the game, 14-14, setting up the contest’s final moments.
Mangelluzzi sees much to be gained by the experience.
“It’s not the way we wanted to win. You always want to come out and blow out a team and have that dominant victory. But a victory like this brings our team so much closer together, and we’ll definitely be stronger for it. So when we get into a situation like this again, we’ll know exactly what to do,” Mangelluzzi said.
Mayfield 6 0 0 8 8 22
Nordonia 7 0 0 7 7 21
Nordonia – Hudson 24 pass from T. Alders (Bauer Kick)
Mayfield – Markovic 13 run (kick failed)
Mayfield – LoPiccolo 10 pass from Markovic (Markovic Run)
Nordonia – Ward 5 pass from T. Alders (Bauer Kick)
Nordonia – Nobles 15 run (Bauer kick)
Mayfield – Mangelluzzi 34 pass from Markovic (Canganelli pass from Markovic)