AVELLA — Mapletown opened its season with a 42-8 non-conference home win against Avella and the two met again Friday night, this time on the Eagles’ home field.
If Maples coach George Messich had any worries about his team taking the rematch, which this time counted in the Tri-County South standings, for granted, those fears with quelled immediately by Landan Stevenson.
The junior running broke free for a 63-yard touchdown run on Mapletown’s first play from scrimmage to start a 23-point, first-quarter barrage that propelled the Maples to a 45-16 victory.
“That felt good,” Stevenson said of his explosive start. “The line opened up a big hole and I just went through it and took off.”
“I thought it was huge for our mental state because we were so fired up after that,” Messich said.
Stevenson added three more touchdown runs on his way to a sparkling 216-yard performance on just 18 carries to push him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season while upping his career total to 3,072.
Stevenson had an impact on defense, also, intercepting a pass and returning it for score to give him a five-touchdown night. He was 5 for 5 on extra-point kicks as well.
While it seemed to be an eye-opening showing, it didn’t surprise Messich.
“The way Landan Stevenson played tonight, that’s a typical game for him,” Messich said. “I expect him to do that every Friday night because I think that’s what a great athlete he is.”
The win evened Mapletown’s conference record and 2-2, pulling it into a fourth-place tie with Monessen, and improved the Maples’ overall mark to 4-3.
After Stevenson’s first TD, Mapletown’s Cohen Stout gave his team a 9-0 lead when he tackled Avella’s punter in the end zone for a safety following a high snap.
The Maples went up 16-0 on an 11-yard touchdown run by Brody Evans and Stevenson capped the first-quarter onslaught with a 6-yard TD run.
“I was just really pleased at the way we came out to start the football game,” Messich said. “Avella and Mapletown is a great rivalry and if we didn’t come out from the beginning, we were going to be in a battle.”
The Eagles (0-4, 0-7) fought back in the second quarter, holding the Maples scoreless while scoring eight points on KJ Rush’s 1-yard TD run and his two-point conversion pass to Brandon Samol.
“I give Avella credit, they played a really tough second quarter,” Messich said. “We stopped ourselves a few times with holding penalties.”
Mapletown reestablished itself in the third quarter.
Stevenson scored on a 42-yard burst and Evans passed to Clay Menear for a two-point conversion to make it 31-8.
Stevenson added a 26-yard pick-six and a 29-yard touchdown run later in the quarter to make it 45-8, invoking the mercy rule.
Avella got on the board again in the fourth quarter on Rush’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Samol. Rush passed to Cole Jaworowski for the two-point conversion to cap the game’s scoring.
Rush led the Eagles in rushing with 82 yards on 21 attempts.
Stevenson gave credit to his teammates.
“The offensive line was blocking, giving me holes,” Stevenson said. “The defensive line got pressure on their offense and we just made the plays.”
Mapletown travels to Greene County rival Jefferson-Morgan next week for another important conference game.
It’ll be no different than any other game to Stevenson.
“Same thing as every week,” he said. “Go out there, work hard and win the game.”
(Westley Burchianti contributed to this story.)