CANONSBURG - When Mike Cleveland boomed the opening kickoff into the end zone to begin the 2010 season for Trinity High School, head coach Ed Dalton might have breathed a small sigh of relief.
After all the drama and turmoil surrounding Dalton over the last year, he could turn his focus to the gridiron. At the end of the night, Dalton celebrated by joining his team in a jog to the corner of Memorial Stadium, where the Hillers rang the bell that rests on the field.
Of course, Memorial Stadium isn't where Trinity plays its home games. That's Canon-McMillan's turf. And the night started out well for the Big Macs. Tim Sohyda will have to wait at least another week before getting his first win, however.
Thanks to the all-around efforts of Cleveland and a bulldozer named Kyle McWreath, Trinity used a strong second-half to blow open a close game and defeat host Canon-McMillan, 40-22, Friday.
For Dalton, it was nice just to get back to football.
"The kids have been so supportive, the parents, the community," said Dalton. "I've gotten so many text messages, hundreds. It's good just to play."
It looked initially like Sohyda would be the one celebrating the victory. Canon-McMillan twice jumped out to early leads, including just 1:33 into the game when Matt Duffey caught a short slant pass over the middle and turned it into a 75-yard touchdown.
That lead lasted 57 seconds when Cleveland made the first of his significant contributions. Brad Martin rolled out on a bootleg and fired to Cleveland, who got behind the Big Macs defense for a 69-yard score.
Cleveland came to the rescue three more times just in the first half.
A 28-yard field goal by Cleveland closed a Trinity deficit to 13-9 after Luke Martin scored on a 14-yard scamper for Canon-McMillan.
Then Cleveland singlehandedly turned the game around in a span of two plays.
First, he intercepted Evan Spencer on the drive following his field goal. On the very next play, Martin lobbed a pass down the left sideline that Cleveland hauled in for a 55-yard strike. Just like that, the Hillers led 16-13.
"I don't think anyone had a much better game than Mike Cleveland, do you?" Dalton asked. "He's quite a weapon. He did everything."
For good measure, Cleveland, who made eight tackles, booted a 40-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to extend Trinity's lead. Oh, he kicks the extra points too.
Trinity's rushing game and defense decided it didn't want to be outdone. The Hillers turned to the ground game in the second half, gaining 175 yards to bump their total for the game to 280. Tyler Yocca did the dirty work, gaining 99 yards on 17 carries. Kyle McWreath and freshman Patrick Frey got the glory, with McWreath scoring twice and the shifty Frey somehow getting through a mess of bodies for a 31-yard touchdown.
Frey finished with 88 yards on just nine carries and McWreath bullied his way to 52 yards on five attempts.
"That's where we think one of our strengths is, our running backs," Dalton said.
Those three scores came in a span of less than eight minutes, putting Trinity ahead 40-16.
McWreath (14 tackles) led the defense, which forced four turnovers, three in the second half.
"We made too many mistakes," said Sohyda. "You can't play football that way and win."
The week didn't start well to begin with for the Big Macs, already without Alex Adams. Sohyda learned Friday morning that tight end Alex Campbell had an appendectomy Thursday night, putting two of Canon-McMillan's key players out of the lineup.
In addition, Duffey suffered an apparent leg injury midway through the first quarter and did not return.
While the injuries played a factor, Sohyda wasn't making excuses.
"We have to find a way to overcome," he said. "After they established their running game, we couldn't keep up. And the interceptions killed us."