Monessen beats Charleroi in ‘Battle of the Bridge,’ snaps long losing streak

Friday, September 10, 2021 | 11:41 PM

Since arriving at Monessen, first-year football coach Wade Brown constantly has preached to his players that their time was coming.

After the hard work they put in during the offseason and first two nonconference games, he knew they were on the verge of reaping the benefits.

Then, Brown saw it come to fruition in the renewel of one of the WPIAL’s oldest rivalries.

Lorenzo Gardner tossed for three touchdowns, Anthony Crews finished with a pair – one receiving and one rushing – and Monessen’s defense held Charleroi’s offense in check en route to a 24-6 victory in the “Battle of the Bridge” Friday night at Memorial Stadium.

The win was Monessen’s first since Oct. 25, 2019, and its first against Charleroi since Aug. 31, 2007.

“I’m so happy for these kids after all the things they’ve been through over the past couple of years,” Brown said. “To see their faces and how happy they are, that’s really what matters for me. I’m glad they showed up today.”

The play of Gardner and Crews made a significant difference for the Greyhounds (1-2).

Following a pair of drives that resulted in a turnover and a punt to open the game, Gardner and Crews hooked up for a screen pass on the first play of Monessen’s third possession. Crews corralled the toss from his sophomore quarterback and went the distance, finding the end zone from 76 yards out to give the Hounds a 6-0 advantage.

Gardner connected with Samuel Valle for a 7-yard score on Monessen’s next possession and added a 32-yard TD pass to Dayton Carson in the second half.

Gardner completed 6 of 12 passes for 151 yards.

“I’m very glad he could have a performance like that because he needed that for his confidence,” Brown said. “The first two games were a little shaky, but he battled though some adversity tonight and still kept fighting. That’s what we’re looking for. He’s a young guy, and we’re going to be looking for him to lead us into the future.”

Crews wasn’t finished after his long touchdown grab in the first quarter.

He showed off his wheels on the first play of Monessen’s third second-half drive, going right and following his blockers en route to a 92-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 18-6.

The 5-11, 165-pound freshman finished with 11 carries for 121 yards along with three receptions for 70 yards.

“I’ve known about him for a couple of years now from me coaching against him in youth leagues,” Brown said. “He’s a freshman and has a lot to learn, too, but he’s going to turn some heads.”

Charleroi’s offense struggled to get anything going in the first quarter, punting on each of its first five drives.

Brown was pleased with his group’s defensive effort, especially early in the first quarter when Monessen’s offense was stagnant.

“I think our defense set the tone because it took our offense a little bit of time to get moving,” Brown said. “Our defense held up for us in that first half until our offense got going.”

After a lengthy nine-play drive that resulted in another punt, the Cougars (0-2) eventually were able to get things going on their final drive of the first half thanks in part to three Monessen penalties.

They started their drive at the 21-yard line following a nice punt return by Brennan Shannon before a pair of encroachment calls and an offsides penalty allowed them to inch closer.

Four plays later, Charleroi had its first and only score of the night on a 1-yard touchdown run by Terrance Woods that cut the deficit to 12-6 heading into halftime.

“We started to find our groove and once we found it, we were doing good,” Charleroi coach Brady Barbero said. “We just had to capatlize on a few of those opportunities we had. The kids fought hard. I can’t say anything about their fight.”

Charleroi threatened to tie the score on a 10-play drive midway through the third quarter. The drive, which was highlighted by a 32-yard run by Josh Blatnik and a 37-yard pass from Brendan Harps to Shannon, saw the Cougars get down to the Monessen 6-yard line, facing a second-and-goal. A false start penalty sent Charleroi back and only three yards were gained on the next three plays, forcing a turnover on downs.

On Monessen’s next possession, Crews made it a two-possession game.

“That was a real backbreaker,” Barbero said. “I’m happy with the kids’ effort, but we have a lot things we still have to fix. We just had too many mistakes and penalties at the wrong time.”

Monessen kicks off Tri-County South Conference play at Bentworth next week. Charleroi travels to McGuffey for its Centery Conference opener.

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