Guaranteeing the Wellington Dukes’ first non-losing football season since 2011 was a great Senior Night feat.
Amidst cold and rainy weather Friday, the team moved to 5-4 with a 48-12 defeat of the Brookside Cardinals (1-8), thanks in large part to 147 rushing yards by Max Carevic and four touchdowns from Tristan Arno (three throwing, one rushing).
This week the team heads to Black River to take on the 6-3 Pirates, who are coming off a 37-13 victory over Firelands. Both the Dukes and the Pirates need a win and some help from teams ranked above them to make the playoffs.
Wellington needs a bit more help. It’s ranked 12th in Region 18 of Division V and Black River is ninth in Region 17. The top eight teams in each region qualify for postseason play.
The Dukes need losses from Marion Pleasant, Genoa, Rossford, and Liberty-Benton. Black River needs Garfield and Gilmour Academy to lose.
“Tonight felt great, but we know we’re going to have to come out ready to play next week,” said Carevic. “We were all a bit sloppy in the first quarter tonight. This new offensive setup has been working for us but we want to find ways to make it even better.”
Arno replaced Carevic as starting quarterback three weeks ago, with Carevic taking on a do-it-all role and lining up at running back, receiver, and even still at quarterback occasionally.
Arno’s accuracy on an 18-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter allowed senior Trevor Porter to use his body to shield the Brookside defensive back from making a play on the ball.
“I was just reading the safety,” Arno said. “I saw him bite on Max running a corner route and it opened right up down the middle. We get Max the ball three different ways now. Max is our offensive piece and we need to continue to get him the ball. As a junior, winning next week would be huge for us going into next year. It’d be amazing to build off that. We don’t like Black River at all, either.”
After Porter’s scoring grab, Brookside answered with a one-yard run by Tim Ackerman, but a blocked extra point by Nate Nocella kept Wellington in front 7-6. Porter then reached pay-dirt again in the second quarter on a 16-yard fade route before the Cardinals’ David Chambers returned an Arno interception 64 yards for a touchdown.
“We have a good game plan and we know what we’re capable of,” said Porter. “Good throws from Tristan and Max have allowed me to make a lot of plays this year.”
Looking at a 14-12 score in the first half’s closing minutes, the Dukes offense hit a switch.
On Wellington’s first offensive play following the interception, Carevic beat the entire Brookside defense to the outside corner for a 61-yard score.
To open the second half, Arno converted from fourth-and-one before scoring on the ground from 18 yards out. He then threw a 30-yard score to Mason Wright to push the lead to 35-12 with 3:30 left in the third quarter.
Wright and Nocella capped the Dukes’ scoring with one touchdown apiece on the ground.
Defensively, the Dukes held Brookside to 167 yards of total offense and sacked quarterback Jonathan Hice five times. Linebacker Brandon Sorg registered two of those, with Nocella and Carevic each involved in one.
Senior lineman Dauson Hammer knows a tough test to close out the regular season awaits in Sullivan.
“We just have to stop their wing-T offense and the trap,” he said. “We have to play in the backfield and just stop anything they want to throw at us. Coach always tells us about details, and we have to keep looking at the small things we miss. It’s really what it comes down to when you look at it critically.”
Coach Sean Arno will spend the week getting his team ready for not only a rivalry game, but the school’s highest stakes contest in five years.
“We don’t like Black River and they don’t like us,” he said. “We’ve got a nice team and we’re going to be ready to go. A bit of a slow start tonight against Brookside was kind of typical after a big win like last week’s. We had a few flat spots, but the guys kicked in, took control up front, and did what they needed to do. Guaranteeing the first non-losing season in a while is huge in itself. We’re playing now for a winning season. We all know that’s a big deal.”
On the keys to victory against Black River, Arno agreed with Hammer that it will all start with the running game.
“Black River has a great ground attack,” he said. “That’s got to be where you stop them. They’re going to run the ball and stop the run. I’m not surprised they’re finishing the year strong. We’ll have to be diverse in our offensive attack.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier and Russ Gifford | Wellington Enterprise The Wellington senior football players and cheerleaders celebrate their win after the game.