PADEN CITY - St. John flexed its rushing muscles to the tune of 197 yards and five touchdowns Friday night in handing Paden City a 34-8 defeat at Berger Field.
Nick Cervelli led the way with 106 yards on the ground, with Devon Hennesy and D.J. Shoemaker each scoring two touchdowns.
''We definitely wanted to drive the ball and make a statement,'' first-year Irish coach Jason Merryman said.
Paden City’s Brandon Cross, left, tries to get out of the grasp of Kolin Melko, middle, and D.J. Shoemaker.
''We wanted to keep pounding, keep pounding, keep pounding it. Cervelli was a man possessed and Hennesy was a big spark for us.
''That was a pretty good combination for us.''
St. John (2-1) dominated the line of scrimmage all night and no drive was this more evident than the Irish's first of the second half.
Leading 21-0 and starting on its own 32, Cervelli, who averaged a little more than 10 yards per carry, ripped of consecutive runs of 8, 18 and 22 yards to put the Irish on the Wildcats 20. Hennesy reaped the rewards of Cervelli's work and took the next snap 20 yards up the middle for his second score to help boost the lead to 27-0.
''This was the first time we used both of those guys this much,'' Merryman said. ''It was a pleasant surprise.''
All told, nine players carried the ball for St. John.
''We tried not to throw it as much this week,'' said Merryman, whose team attempted 13 passes. ''We wanted to showcase the running game and take the wind of their sails.''
It didn't happen right away. But as the game went on the Irish's runners and bruising offensive line continued to wear down Wildcats defenders.
Shoemaker scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and added a 7-yard jaunt on the first play of the second quarter. Hennesy ripped off a 28-yard scoring burst later in the quarter and the Irish led 21-0 at halftime.
The youthful Wildcats, with only 14 players suited up due to a few injuries, looked primed to trim the lead to a touchdown following Shoemaker's second scoring run.
The Wildcats marched nearly 80 yards down the field only to see the drive halted when a fumble went of the end zone for a touchback.
It was one of those nights for Paden City (0-3), which finished with five turnovers.
''I told the kids I'm proud of the effort they gave,'' veteran Wildcats coach Brent Croasmun said. ''I told them before the game to go out and win some plays. I thought they played hard and gave me all they had.''
Paden City only has one senior and its offensive line is comprised of mostly freshmen.
''I only have one guy on the team with a driver's license,'' Croasmun said. ''We have some small guys on the line, but they stuck their noses in there. They're not afraid and that's all I can ask of them.''
One of the bright spots for the Wildcats was the play of sophomore quarterback Brandon Cross. Cross, who scored the Wildcats' only touchdown on a 7-yard jaunt late, was the night's leading ground gainer with 137 yards.
''This was only his second game as a starter,'' Croasmun said. ''We had to throw him in on the second series against Clay-Battelle when Zach Heasley went down.
''He's getting better every game. He carried some guys on his back and that's not by accident. That's because he lived in the weight room this summer.''
While Croasmun is seeing improvement, Merryman knows his team needs to get better in a number of phases with the likes of Bishop Donahue and Clay-Battelle ahead on the schedule.
''We have to cut back on the penalties,'' said Merryman, whose team had 10 for 95 yards. ''But, overall, it was a team effort.''