MAHANOY CITY Big time players come up big in big games.
That pretty much told the story Friday night here at Mahanoy Area's Alumni Field when two Anthracite League unbeatens, the host Golden Bears and the visiting Colts of Marian, squared off in Week 3 of the high school football season.
The big-time performance came from QB Mike Gaval of the host Bears, who rushed the ball 19 times for 214 yards and three TDs, directing a tricky offense that the Marian defense had fits with all night. The senior signal caller also threw a three-yard TD pass, giving the Bears their second straight win over Marian.
Of course, five turnovers didn't help the Marian cause, and Coach Stan Dakosty's contingent made the mistakes an critical times, most especially when they penetrated into the MA redzone on the game's first possession. Then, forcing the Bears to punt, the Colts mishandled the punt less than two minutes later, making momentum a critical factor at that point.
It was here that Gaval took over, driving the Bears 47 yards on nine plays for a 6-0 lead, the tally coming on a three-yard toss to Neal Goodman with 11:23 left in the first half. In the drive, the Mahanoy QB "hid" the ball nicely, often pulling a fake handoff from his backs at the last second and moving the ball at ease upon calling his own number.
Winning mentor Wally Hall, a former assistant to Dakosty, noted, "Mike's a hard worker. We can't ask any more of him. There's a lot of deception in our offense and he's been playing for us for three years. On top of that, he's a very athletic kid."
As if the first two turnovers weren't enough for the Colts, they continued to play giveaway on their next possession, when Matt Kimmel picked off a Corey Quick pass at the MA 30 and returned it 17 yards to the hosts' 47 with 9:36 left before the break.
Gaval and Co. followed the Marian mistake with an eight-play drive, capped by the quarterback's 30-yard run for a score with 6:38 on the borad, making it 12-0.
"Mahanoy Area's a good football team with a great quarterback," said Dakosty. "We knew we had to stop him (Gaval), and we didn't. My hat goes off to them, they made the plays."
Two plays into the third period, Gaval brought the Bear fans to their feet with an electrifying 70-yard run for a TD and just 48 seconds beyond the break, his PAT pass to Josh Baker made it 20-0.
As impressive Gaval appeared, his coach credited everyone around him. Hall noted, "The whole thing is, it's a team effort. Important things like receivers blocking downfield, and the line doing its job on both sides of the ball are what make me happy. I'm extremely proud of the way we played."
Behind the running of a banged-up Paul Martin, 26 carries, 96 yards, and the quarterbacking of Ryan Karnish, who took over after starter Corey Quick left the game with a leg injury before the intermission, Marian finally got onto the scoreboard, driving the ball 65 yards to paydirt in the fourth period.The tally came on a Karnish pass to John Julian, covering three yards, but the Blue and Gold utilized over seven minutes, the score coming with 6:50 left in the game, making it 20-6.
The Colts then turned the ball over again, with Bear Tyler Cavenas recovering a fumble with 5:17 on the board. Seven plays later, Gaval's third TD run of the night capped the scoring.
"When we put our game together, we can accomplish a lot," said Hall. "It was a great team effort."