Malvern’s football team is heading to the second round of the OHSAA playoffs with a 34-0 victory over the No. 9 Lowellville Rockets Saturday night.
The No. 8-ranked Hornets started the game slow, entering halftime with just a 6-0 lead. Malvern’s lone first half touchdown came from a one-yard run by Bryson White in the second quarter.
The Hornets offense was plagued by penalties in the first half, and head coach Matt Chuirco said that was the focus of halftime: clean it up.
“We’re not built for those third and long situations, so that was the talk at half. We just needed to take care of business,” he said.
Malvern’s offense began to execute in the second half, scoring 28 points.
Xavier Watson extended the Hornets lead to 14-0 with an 8-yard run followed by a successful two-point conversion by Tristan Phillips to Dylan Phillips early in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Lowellville returner fumbled the ball right into the hands of Watson who returned it to Lowellville’s one-yard line.
It took one play for the Hornets offense to capitalize. White scored his second touchdown of the game on another 1-yard run to put the Hornets in front 21-0. He finished the game with eight rushes for 14 yards and two touchdowns.
Watson rushed for 37 yards on six attempts with one touchdown.
Malvern senior Johnny Walker showed his defensive skills in the fourth quarter, jumping a route and intercepting a pass, returning it 18 yards for the Hornet touchdown.
KJ Thomas scored the final touchdown of the night with a 1-yard run for Malvern. He finished as the game’s leading rusher with 11 carries for 57 yards.
QB T. Phillips finished the night 11-of-14 for 133 yards and an interception. Noah Ball hauled in four catches for 48 yards.
On the defensive end, Malvern’s defense is solidifying a school record of season interceptions, finishing with four interceptions coming from T. Phillips, Ball, Thomas and Walker. The four interceptions move the Hornets to 23 on the year.
“We’re going to take our chances, blitzing a lot. Team’s are going to move the ball on us, but we have that ‘bend, don’t break’ mentality,” said Coach Chuirco. “Once we get down there, we know it’s time to tighten up.”
With the win, Malvern will play No. 1 Lucas next week at Lucas High School Saturday night.