West Scranton had lost its first three games and was trailing Lakeland, 14-0, early in the second quarter.
But behind the arm and legs of Cayden Merrifield, the Invaders rallied.The junior quarterback ran for 139 yards and one touchdown and throwing for 198 yards and two scores as West scored 28 unanswered points to win, 28-14. The defense also did its part, holding the Chiefs scoreless over the game’s final 35 minutes and limiting them to 41 total yards in the second half.
Here is more from Merrifield’s Athlete of the Week interview:
Family: Father, Frank; mother, Francine; brother, Shayne
Other sports I play: Basketball, baseball
Favorite teams: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Pittsburgh Steelers
Athletes I admire: LeBron James. Growing up, I always like him. The work ethic that he puts in and how he helps people off the court, too.
Favorite food: Wings
Three-people I’d like to have dinner with: LeBron James, my late grandfather Joe Cognetti, Derek Jeter
What was the mood of the team after Lakeland scored early in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead? Our first three games we went down like that (and lost). We made a switch on defense and we knew we had to get momemtum back our way. We scored (on the next play), then we got another stop and then we scored again. The momentum kept going our way and we kept fighting.
Describe your 34-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter that tied the score at 14: It was a QB draw. Our line did a great job blocking that play. I had a lot of green grass, an open field, and I scored.
Was Lakeland focusing on running back Kevin Williams and did that open things up for you to run for as many yards as you did? That definitely helps. Kevin’s a great running back. When they key on him, we’ll fake it to him and run another play, it gets the linebackers off-balance and opens up for us.
On the go-ahead touchdown pass in the third quarter to Skyler Esquilin on fourth-and-goal from the 5, you were able to keep the play alive with your scrambling: I’m always taught to keep my eyes down the field and try to make plays on my feet.
You blocked a Lakeland field goal attempt on the final play of the first half to keep the score tied at 14. What was the mood like in the locker room at halftime after that? That was big momentum in our favor. Our team was very excited and we were ready to come out in the third quarter and shut them down.
How about the job the defense did? We put in a new defense for that week, but it didn’t work. So we went back to our defense that we’ve been playing since the beginning of the season and it worked. We really stopped the run after we switched our defense.
Since the win, how is the atmosphere around the team different? It’s been a big change. Everyone wasn’t down on themselves like we were after the first three weeks we lost. Everyone was happy. How do you keep that going? We’ve been practicing good, so we have to have another great week of practice this week. We just need to follow our coaches’ game plan and execute what they want us to do.
Post-graduation plans: I definitely want to go to college. I either want to play basketball or football in college. And I’m maybe thinking about going to become a physical therapist.
During more than 30 years at The Times-Tribune, Scott has covered everything from high schools to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. His current beats include motor sports, local colleges, high school cross country and high school baseball. He also is a copy editor and page designer. His articles have won awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Eastern Motorsports Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists Keystone Pro Chapter and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Keystone Press. He also has been honored by the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League and the Minor League Football Alliance. In 2016, he was presented the Media Service Award by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. A Long Island, New York, native, Scott graduated from the University of Scranton in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. He lives in Peckville with his wife, Andrea, and daughters, Bridget and Emily. Contact him at email@example.com; 570-348-9100, x5109; or @swalshTT on Twitter