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McDONALD – Is Fort Cherry back?

Well, considering we are in the “false autumn” stage of the year, where football is in full swing yet Western Pennsylvania weather still sits in the mid-70s well after nightfall, it’s probably too early to make any proclamation.

But the Rangers are playing well, and they’re winning. So who could fault anybody in McDonald for being excited?

In their Big Seven conference opener, the Rangers followed a big non-conference win at Carmichaels with a 35-7 romp over Shenango on Friday night.

“I’m feeling amazing right now,” quarterback Maddox Truschel said. “I’m just happy that we got the win, especially since last year’s blowout loss to Shenango (44-0 in New Castle). I’m just happy to be here with my team and winning and playing. I’m just happy.”

It might be harsh to call Truschel a running back in a quarterback’s body.

The kid can pass when he has to, as he threw for five touchdowns in Fort Cherry’s previous two wins.

But Truschel is a dual-threat, and against Shenango (0-3), running was the name of the game.

Truschel picked up 109 yards on 11 carries, running for two touchdowns and throwing for another. He went 10-for-15 passing for 69 yards to go with the touchdown.

“He’s a gamer,” Fort Cherry coach Tanner Garry said. “He knows how to make the big play when he needs to and he continues to.”

“I wouldn’t be running like that without the offensive line I have,” Truschel said. “They’re the real dogs. They’re the real ones that are helping me get those yards.”

It didn’t take Truschel long to pick up where he left off last week in Carmichaels, where he ran for 240 yards and threw for 130 more. He ended his team’s first drive with a 36-yard scamper. The extra point was good, and the Rangers led, 7-0.

It looked like Shenango had a good thing going on in its last possession of the first quarter, driving from its 3-yard line to the red zone. However, on a 4th-and-10, Fort Cherry’s Mitchell Cook intercepted Sam Myers’ pass and returned it for an 84-yard score.

It was the first of three pick-6’s for the Rangers’ defense, the defensive touchdowns totaling 198 yards.

In short, the Rangers’ defense allowed seven points and scored 21.

“We told them from the early going, ‘guys, as long as we can stop their run game,’ which, to their credit, they still ran the ball well,” Garry said. It’s just that we made the plays when we needed to.”

Fort Cherry kept its two-touchdown lead into halftime, and it could have been better for the Rangers. In its last two first-half possessions, Fort Cherry drove into the red zone but came away without points. Also, the Rangers had a chance to expand their lead in the first quarter when Brayden Kirby recovered a fumble, but they didn’t capitalize on that, either.

In a drive that “took three years off” Garry’s life, it looked like Fort Cherry’s first possession of the third quarter would end without anything, too.

On a 4th-and-15 from the Shenango 20, Truschel picked up 17 yards on his feet for a first down. He finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Rogers.

“I was going through my reads, and I didn’t see anyone wide open. I looked and my first read and then my second read, and I didn’t see anyone. I just looked down, and I saw that the left side was completely wide open. I said, ‘Oh, I have to take this,’ and I got it, and I started running.”

“There aren’t a whole lot of plays in the playbook for 4th-and-15,” Garry said. “So you draw up something. You try to put them in a good position.”

Two interception returns by Shane Cornali, who also had seven tackles and kicked all the extra points, put the game to bed.

“To have a freshman corner take two pick-sixes back, I mean that’s just, you know, it makes you excited to think about what that kid has in his future,” Garry said.

The next stop on the “Ranger revenge tour” that the team has embraced will be in Moon Township. Fort Cherry takes on OLSH next Friday night. Last season, the Chargers bested Fort Cherry in McDonald, 35-13.

For now, this is the first time Fort Cherry has been 3-1 since 2017.

Back then, Truschel and the rest of his senior classmates were still in middle school.

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