Willoughby South’s tradition commands that the sound of cannon fire rumbles through Harry Winters Stadium after each home team score, but it’s Rebels running back Kareem Hunt who strikes the match and brings an ominous thunder.
Running up, down, around and over Mayfield’s defense, Hunt smashed his way to 310 yards on 28 carries and scored four touchdowns as the Rebels handled the Wildcats, 56-35, in a non-conference game Friday night.
The Rebels moved to 2-0, while the Wildcats fell to 1-1.
Mayfield quarterback Drazen Markovic went 21-for-38 for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but he also had three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Jonathan Mangelluzzi, a hero of last week’s tight 22-21 overtime win at Nordonia, had two TD receptions.
South quarterback Casey Klicman went 6-of-10 for 196 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Although Mayfield’s defense stunted Hunt’s growth at first, two consecutive plays changed the game’s complexion in South’s favor.
Mayfield kicker Patrick Tighe missed a 25-yard field goal wide right that would have put the Wildcats up, 10-0. Hunt then immediately burst up the middle for an 80-yard TD run at 9:33 that sparked a decisive 28-point second quarter that put the Rebels up, 28-14, at halftime.
Mayfield coach Larry Pinto and his young charges did all they could, but coach knew he was in for it with Hunt.
“That kid, on any given play, can break it. He’s done it to everybody in the area. He’s a special player. Best of luck to him. He’s an outstanding back,” Pinto said. “You’ve got to credit their offensive line. They’re big. They’re physical, but he’s special.”
Hunt is a bona fide Mr. Football Ohio candidate with college programs like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Toledo and much of the Big East and MAC giving chase. Undoubtedly aware that Hunt had 457 all-purpose yards against Notre-Dame Cathedral Latin, the Wildcats took great care to steer kickoffs away from him.
Although the numbers look gaudy, the 310-yard rushing performance Friday night represents just the fourth-highest total of his high school career. He ran for a personal-best 485 yards and six touchdowns against Eastlake North last season.
Until his big 80-yard run, Hunt had only 33 rushing yards in the game.
“It was little bit tight. In my mind, I was thinking I had to be more patient. And then once I saw it, I was going to hit it as hard as I can. Our line started making better holes for me and bigger,” said Hunt, who is 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds.
And things were going so well, too, for the Wildcats.
Markovic, playing at safety, picked off Klicman and ran 58 yards down the sideline to put Mayfield up, 7-0, in the first quarter. After slicing through the defense with deft passes and a few Rebel penalties, the missed field goal squandered an 11-play drive in the second quarter.
Then Hunt immediately changed his team’s fate with his 80-yard run. That TD started a run of eight straight scoring possessions for the Rebels.
Markovic immediately responded with a 16-yard TD pass to Chris Reimer to put the Wildcats up, 14-7, but two opposing offensive plays later, Klicman found Tony Walton for a 58-yard TD pass to knot the score with 6:33 left in the quarter.
On the ensuing drive, South’s Matt Wyatt made a break on a Markovic pass at the 30 and ran it back in for a 21-14 lead the Rebels would not relinquish at 5:53.
Only three plays into the Wildcats’ next drive, Markovic threw his third and final interception to Anthony Cvelbar at the Wildcats’ 45. Eight plays later, Klicman bobbled the snap in the air but then gathered it in and ran the final 2 yards for the 28-14 halftime lead.
In the second half, Hunt produced touchdowns of 14, 20 and 67 yards, while Klicman found Anthony Federico 47 yards downfield to close the scoring in the third quarter.
Mayfield attempted to counter with two Mangelluzzi bombs of 59 and 49 yards in the third quarter, but the Wildcats couldn’t get closer than two touchdowns the rest of the way. Mario Monastero, in replacement of Markovic, ran in a final score for Wildcats with 54 seconds left in the fourth.
“We’re close. This was a good measuring stick for us. I thought we hung in there and played with this team,” Pinto said. “Barring some of the mistakes we made, I think it could have been a better game.”
The Wildcats will host Olmsted Falls and open Wildcat Park on Saturday with a 7 p.m. kickoff time.
Mayfield 7 7 14 7 35
Willoughby South 0 28 21 7 56
Mayfield – Markovic 58 INT Return (Tighe kick)
South – Hunt 80 run (Simenc kick)
Mayfield – Reimer 17 pass from Markovic (Tighe kick)
South – Walton 58 pass from Klicman (Simenc kick)
South – Wyatt 30 INT Return (Simenc kick)
South – Klicman 2 run (Simenc kick)
South – Hunt 14 run (Simenc kick)
Mayfield – Mangelluzzi 59 pass from Markovic (Tighe kick)
South – Hunt 20 run (Simenc kick)
Mayfield – Mangelluzzi 49 pass from Markovic (Tighe kick)
South – Federico 47 pass from Klicman (Simenc kick)
South – Hunt 67 run (Simenc kick)
Mayfield – Monastero 4 run (Valletta kick)