Visiting Cleveland Heights rolled to a 16-point halftime lead behind 362 yards of first-half offense and cruised to a 51-20 victory over St. John’s Jesuit on Thursday night in the Old Newsboys Kickoff Classic high school football opener at Lyden Field.
Running back Marcus Bagley led the way for the Tigers, rushing for 275 yards on 29 carries, including touchdown runs of 2, 1, 8, and 5 yards.
Cleveland Heights quarterback Taz Pauldo added 209 passing yards, including two TD strikes.
The Tigers’ Dorian Baker added a 66-yard TD reception and a 79-yard interception return for a score.
PHOTO GALLERY: St. John's Jesuit vs. Cleveland Heights
“We buried ourselves in the first half with two turnovers inside our 45, and against a team like that you can’t turn it over,” Titans coach Doug Pearson said. “We had four on the night, and one was a pick-six. In order to beat a team like that, you can’t make mistakes. It was very frustrating tonight.”
St. John’s did gain some momentum late in the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns in a span of 43 seconds to pull within 30-20 with three minutes left in the period.
But Heights responded with a 41-yard kickoff return, and three plays later Bagley’s third TD started the game-closing, 21-point surge as the Tigers turned the game into a rout.
“Our whole mission this last nine months was to work on creating young men with great character who play for each other,” Tigers coach Jeff Rotsky said. “I think they did that tonight.
“We didn’t play smart. We jumped offsides three or four times, and that’s not our team. But we’re blessed with some very talented athletes and a number of guys who can make big plays at any given time.”
Titans quarterback Nolan Silberhorn was 18-of-31 passing for 223 yards and a pair of TDs in defeat.
Picking up where they left off from last year’s season-opening 56-24 rout of the Titans in Cleveland, the Tigers unleashed their potent offense after sputtering a bit early on.
Pauldo hit Rayshawn Dickerson on a 13-yard touchdown pass over the middle for a 6-0 lead with 5 minutes, 15 seconds left in the opening quarter.
On the second play of the second quarter, Bagley plunged over left tackle from two yards out, and Luis Avila’s point-after kick made it 13-0.
“Bagley was unbelievable,” Pearson said. “He runs hard and gets downhill, and our tackling wasn’t very good. But I credit him. He’s a good player.”
The Tigers started their next two scoring drives from their own 5-yard line.
The first took 13 plays and culminated in Avila’s 28-yard field goal.
The second 95-yard march took just three plays, with Pauldo hitting Baker down the left sideline on a 66-yard TD strike, and Heights owned a 23-0 edge 3:53 before halftime.
That was enough time for St. John’s to get on the scoreboard before the break.
Silberhorn capped an eight-play, 74-yard march with a 16-yard scoring pass to Max McCormick with 1:08 left in the half.
The Tigers, who outgained St. John’s 362-100 in total offense before the break, threatened once more before heading to the locker room, but Makai Veasley’s interception of Pauldo at the Titan 28 ended that opportunity.
St. John’s got within 30-20 in the third quarter when Silberhorn hit Craig Mays on a 62-yard TD pass down the left sideline with 3:43 left in the period, and then added a defensive score.
Evan Yoder scooped up a Tigers fumble and romped 32 yards for a TD just 43 seconds later.
But, with Bagley setting the tone, Cleveland Heights outgained the Titans by 300 yards offensively, 572-272, including 362 rushing yards on 42 attempts. St. John’s was held to 42 rushing yards on 24 carries.