WARREN, Pa. – Warren coach Mark Morelli knew his Dragons were in for a stiff test against Oil City in their regular season opener.
In the end, Ethen Knox picked up right where he left off last season, rushing for 291 yards and accounting for five total touchdowns in a 58-24 for the Oilers, spoiling the opening of Warren’s new turf.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a challenge,” Morelli said. “Sure enough it was. No matter what we did on either side of the ball, they seemed to have an answer for it.”
Knox scored on runs of 28, 2, 6, and 65 yards and also was on the receiving end of a 64-yard strike from Dan Ley to open the scoring.
There were three touchdowns in the span of 1:13 of game time in the first quarter, beginning with the long Oil City TD toss. Knox took advantage of a Warren fumble three plays later and scored from 28 yards out to make it 14-0. Twenty-one seconds later Tommy Nyquist scored on a 42-yard run to get Warren within 14-6.
The Oilers led 28-6 at halftime on the strength of a Knox two-yard plunge and a 21-yard pitch and catch from Gavin Stephens to Carl Chelton on a trick play.
The Dragons got a stop to open the second half and got the ball at midfield but fumbled it back to Oil City, and a short time later Knox was back in the end zone.
“Similiar scenario to what we had last year,” said Morelli, whose team rallied from an 18-0 deficit to beat the Oilers a year ago. “We got that key defensive stop and then the turnovers came. It’s something you don’t count on. They’re a good football team, there’s no doubt about it, but we have to turn the page and move on.”
The lead swelled to 51-12 in the third quarter after a Kevin Pearsall one-yard scoring plunge for the Oilers.
Warren had a pair of long touchdown passes in the second half, as quarterback Eric Dippold connected with Ethan Senz who made some nifty moves on a 60-yard touchdown, and later Cayden Wright scored on a 51-yard pass from Dippold, who finished 6-of-11 for 139 yards and the two scores.
Alan McAllister also played a strong game on defense for the Dragons.
Oil City amassed 427 yards on the ground.
“We have to learn from this,” Morelli said. “It’s a challenge and an opportunity to learn from this. These kids understand what’s going on. When the season gets going, you’re going to come to points in the season where there are forks in the road. And we have our first fork in the road after Week 1. We have to decide which way we’re going to go. They need to stay positive, keep their heads up, and work hard.”