CANONSBURG – An 0-2 start to begin the season is bad enough, especially in the Class 6A Quad County Conference. Adding to the trials and tribulations of the Canon-McMillan Big Macs was the loss this week of head coach Mike Evans, who was suspended by the school for this week’s game against Seneca Valley.
Still, interim head coach Tm Sohyda has experience not just as a coach but as the former head coach of the Big Macs.
Despite that, the efforts of the Big Macs came up short against the Raiders. Seneca Valley received strong efforts both defensively from Josh Miller and a three-touchdown performance from quarterback Gabe Lawson to earn a 27-7 victory Friday at Canon-McMillan’s Memorial Stadium.
“(Evans) physically wasn’t here, but he’s created an identity for this football program,” said Sohyda. “I think he’s done a great job creating a standard for our players. His footprint is all over this football team, and we’re all proud to work for him.”
Neither team managed much offensively through most of the first quarter until Seneca Valley head coach Ron Butschle subbed in junior Ethan West late in the opening quarter. West promptly ran for 12 yards on his first touch, then caught a short pass on the second play of the drive, broke a tackle and ran 76 yards for the game’s opening points.
West would finish with game-highs of 80 rushing yards on 12 attempts and 106 receiving yards on just two receptions.
“He’s a great player,” said Butschle. “He can catch the ball. He can run the ball. He’s going to be a big part of what we do the next two years.”
Seneca Valley’s momentum, however, seemed short-lived.
On the ensuing kickoff, Big Macs senior Blake Joseph found a seam and hustled 94 yards to the end zone, and just like that, the game was tied at 7-7.
Unfortunately for Canon-McMillan (0-2, 0-3), the Raiders (1-1, 1-2) actually kept the momentum after all, as they marched 71 yards on their next drive to regain a lead they would not relinquish. A pair of big runs by Matt Stanger (12 carries, 76 yards) opened things up for an eventual 31-yard touchdown pass from Lawson to Marciano McCowan.
A bad break for the Big Macs helped result in Seneca Valley’s third score. Connor McMahon hauled in a short pass on a third-and-19 play and was just about to go out of bounds when a Seneca Valley player got his helmet on the ball, jarring it not just loose but sending it bounding backwards 9 yards, where Miller, who had 3½ sacks, pounced on it, setting up the Raiders at the Canon-McMillan 16.
It took four plays, but on fourth down, the Raiders scored on a 12-yard pass from Lawson to James Sprentz.
“The fumble was tough,” said Sohyda. “That was a big-boy hit. It was just a bad break at a bad time.”
Twice from that point on, Canon-McMillan managed to drive into the red zone but came up empty.
“Especially in the first half our defense played well,” said Butschle. “Bottom line is, our defense held them out of the end zone.”
Lawson completed 11 of 22 passes for 211 yards. In a losing effort, Big Macs quarterback Jon Quinque threw for 250 yards on 22 of 36 passing.
The hill for the Big Macs now gets a little steeper as the season moves forward.
“I don’t think the effort is a problem,” said Sohyda. “It’s a little thing here and a little thing there, and if you get too many of them, they add up and can hurt you.”