With a 2-1 overall record, the Shenango High football team already has doubled its win total…
Shenango High’s offense wasn’t as good as it might have been Saturday, failing to score on two red zone trips.
But spearheaded by sophomore quarterback Tino Campoli, it was good when it needed to be.
Campoli passed for one touchdown, ran for another and kept two scoring drives alive with long third- and fourth-down conversions to stake the Wildcats to a three-touchdown lead over Western Beaver early in the final quarter of their WPIAL Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference at Glenn “Pop” Johnston Stadium.
The Golden Beavers responded with two touchdowns in the game’s final 4:38, but the ‘Cats ultimately held on for a 21-14 win, the first league victory for second-year head coach Jimmy Graham.
Campoli completed 13 of 19 passes for 138 yards and one touchdown. A 22-yard connection with Aaron Martin on a fourth-and-14 play in the third quarter set the stage for Campoli’s own 1-yard scoring run two plays later. His 17-yard bootleg on third-and-15 early in the fourth quarter preserved a march that ended in his 24-yard touchdown throw to Maddox Smiley.
Shenango (1-0, 2-1) claimed at 7-0 lead on its second possession of the game when Reis Watkins ran to pay dirt from 18 yards out. Watkins finished with 80 yards on 19 carries.
Graham, a former Shenango quarterback himself, likes the progress he’s seeing in Campoli who, in just three starts as a sophomore, is the county’s passing leader. Campoli has completed 41 of 65 passes (63 percent) for 458 yards, 2 touchdowns and three interceptions (but none Saturday).
“Being a former quarterback and coaching Tino, it’s nice to see his progression and maturing as an athlete,” Graham said. “It’s hard to believe he’s only a 10th grader. Every week we talk, quarterback to quarterback, and I say just get better every play, every snap, every quarter. We just work to get better and better.
“He had a tremendous game today. We need him to be that threat to run and we preached it a lot this week. He made some crucial third-down runs that moved the sticks and found open guys downfield. That’s one thing he’s done really well for us is keeping his eyes downfield. He’s a huge weapon for us right now.”
Campoli’s legs were on display with 7:27 left in the third quarter when he faked a handoff to Watkins who was heading left, rolled right as if to pass, then pulled the ball down and ran for a score.
“It was designed as a power to the left,” he said, “and I told coach that the end was just blitzing right down, he wasn’t even looking at me, I’m just going to keep it.
“He said, ‘Alright, but you’ve got to get in.’ I kept it, Jason Kraner made a great block for me, I just powered it in.”
Shenango dominated the first 3 1/2 quarters before the Golden Beavers assembled a nine-play, 77-yard scoring drive highlighted by quarterback Thad Gray’s 6-for-6 passing effort, which he capped with a 26-yard TD pass to Elias Bishop.
Campoli lost the ball while getting sacked on Shenango’s next possession, and Lonnie Craft scooped it up and ran 31 yards to the 7 yard line before being dragged down by Kraner. Nonetheless, Western Beaver scored three plays later on a 6-yard pass form Gray to Xander Lefebvre with 1:38 remaining.
Shenango recovered the Golden Beavers’ onside kick and was able to run out the clock. Still, ‘Cats’ fans’ nerves might not have been jangled at all had Shenango managed to score on two first-half trips to the red zone.
“We felt we dominated the game,” Graham said. “At halftime we were up 7-0, we felt that we could have been up a few more touchdowns. We get inside that 20, we’ve really got to get better at finishing drives.”