Cardinals, NU Wildcats to square off on gridiron


Triad’s Andy Martin (26) picks up yardage against Indian Lake. The Cardinals will host North Union on Friday.
(Photo submitted)
Sports teams always want to start their season off with a win. It shows that the off-season preparation was well worth the effort.

However, in sports there is a winner and a loser. Unfortunately two local gridiron teams – North Union and Triad – opened the 2017 season with a mark in the ‘L’ column.

The Wildcats will travel to Triad on Friday for a 7 p.m. contest.

Each coach came to the same conclusion at the end of week one. The loss was a self-inflicted one.

“When you try to overcome 10 penalties, three turnovers and a blocked punt, that’s a lot of things to overcome in a big football game against a good football team,” said North Union coach Nick Hajjar.

Triad’s head coach Joe Cardinal echoed the same sentiment.

“Turnovers are what really hurt us,” he said. “We had 20 first downs and the defense really got after it, but anytime we seemed to get some momentum, we would have a turnover. That would either kill a drive, or put us in a rough spot defensively.”

The Wildcats had trouble with the visiting Swanton Bulldogs, losing their first contest 13-7, while the Cardinals fell to Indian Lake, 55-25.

Despite the loss, the Wildcats were able to amass 249 yards of total offense, with 102 of them coming in the air. The defense held Swanton to only 114 yards of total offense.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, lit up the field with 347 yards of total offense, with 227 coming out of the air.

The difference was clearly noticeable from last year’s team, even in the loss. The Cardinals only mustered one win last season with a freshmen/sophomore-heavy team that relied on a freshman quarterback to lead the team. Most of Triad’s players have returned to bring the roster to 32 players, 13 of which are juniors.

“They are much improved from last year,” said Hajjar. “They have changed some things up on both sides of the ball.”

The Cards will use a spread offense that will lean on QB Jordan Simonelli to lead the charge. Simonelli completed 20-of-32 passes for 227 yards against the Lakers. He added another 77 yards on 11 carries.

If Simonelli isn’t running the ball, Dylan Rice takes over the ground duties. Rice cleared 66 yards on nine runs against Indian Lake.

Hajjar is preparing for the spread.

“Any spread offense starts with the quarterback and like I said, he is really talented,” the NU coach said. “Simonelli, Rice and Cameron Atchison are all special in different ways.”

The Wildcats will employ a Wing T offensive formation. The formation will utilize Garrett Miller and Carson Smith in the backfield. The duo combined for 137 yards in week one, but also offers quarterback Anthony Padovano the option to throw the ball.

Cardinal says he is ready for North Union to come right at Triad.

“North Union is going to come right at you on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They are very big and have quite a few seniors.  North Union will be the biggest team we’ll see this season.  We expect them to try to use their size advantage and run the ball at us.  We’ll really have to stay low and out leverage them this week.”

With the mutual understanding of what each team is going to do, this game will come down to who can prepare better for week two of the high school football season.

“We can’t control what they do (to prepare),” said Haajar. “All we can control is how we prepare and we have to have a short- term memory from last week and move on.

“It’s Triad week.”

Cardinal said something similar about his preparation.

“North Union mixes up their coverages and really gets after it up front on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We have to find a way to match that physicality. Our expectations are the same as every week, to compete to the best of our ability, for each guy to do their job and count on the guy next to him to do his job as well.”

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