Canon-McMillan logs valuable early win against Seneca Valley

Friday, September 8, 2023 | 11:49 PM

Going into Friday’s home opener — a rematch of the game that decided the final playoff team in Class 6A last season — Canon-McMillan coach Mike Evans said he felt good.

He and his staff were confident about the matchup and their team’s execution.

It proved true, as the Big Macs (2-1, 1-1) got a win going away, 38-0 over Seneca Valley (0-3, 0-1).

The win puts Canon-McMillan in a great spot for the postseason despite being a Week 2 victory. In a classification where four of the five teams make it, Canon-Mac has essentially a two-game lead over Seneca Valley with the head-to-head tiebreaker. The young Raiders have dates with North Allegheny, Central Catholic and Mt. Lebanon left on the schedule.

For Evans, it was about his team’s execution and explosive-play ability.

“We felt really good going into the game. We also know Seneca Valley’s been a really good team for over a decade. They’re a bit beat up,” Evans said. “We felt good going in the last two weeks. The difference was we executed. We’re pleased with the outcome.”

After forcing a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, the Big Macs went to work on offense, engineering a scoring drive that was capped with 7 minutes, 55 seconds left in the opening stanza by a Geno Calgaro 1-yard run. Canon-Mac scored again later in the quarter on a 25-yard field goal by Zach Barzd.

In the second quarter, Bradyn Matto hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Evans to cap the scoring for the offense in the first half. But then the defense got on the board. About 45 seconds later, Kaeden Singleton, a Delaware commit, leapt mid rush to intercept a ball thrown by Seneca Valley signal caller Sean O’Shea and took it 17 yards for a touchdown.

It was the highlight play on a night when Canon-Mac sacked O’Shea six times.

“They did a really nice job. The thing is our pass rush, when they’re coming, they come off the ball,” Coach Evans said. “They might come off the ball better right now than they have at any point in the nine years I’ve been here. It helps to have a couple college football players there, and Kaeden is a Division-1 football player, so that obviously is a big help.”

In the third, Canon-Mac pushed the game into the mercy rule with touchdown runs of 12 and 6 yards by Evans and Zach Welsh, respectively.

“Our biggest issue is we’re young, and we’re not executing the way we should. We put ourselves in a hole and when you do that, it’s tough to give up big plays and not be able to get first downs consistently,” Raiders coach Ron Butschle said. “It’s just lack of execution right now and that’s on me, so we’ll put our heads down and get back to it.”

Butschle felt there were some flashes on which to build.

“We have some home games coming up now, so maybe a change of scenery will help, but (we) just have to focus on us,” Butschle said. “That’s how we’ll get better. As long as these kids stick together and this staff keeps working to get better, we’ll get it figured out.”

Evans finished the night with a game-high 72 rushing yards on nine carries, Welsh carried the rock 17 times for 68 yards and each scored once. Evans was 11 for 15 through the air for 164 yards and a touchdown. Those completions went to four different players. Zyan Howard caught five for 73 yards, and Welsh caught four for 59 yards.

“We scaled down some of the things we did,” Evans said. “Greg (Perry, our offensive coordinator,) wanted to scale things down and simplify things. It was good to see guys like Mikey and Zach and others making plays. When you have explosive plays you give yourself a chance to win.”

The Big Macs won the yardage game 343-147 in the victory and will be out of conference for the next two weeks with tilts at Bethel Park and versus South Fayette.

Seneca Valley heads home for four in a row, starting with Pine-Richland next week, before returning to 6A play in Week 4 against Mt. Lebanon.

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