Highland rode a fast start to a 46-20 win over visiting Cardington to clinch at least a share of the Blue Division title Friday.
The Scots scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and a third on the first play of the second period and never trailed in winning their sixth straight game after an 0-3 start. After the Pirates turned the ball over on downs at midfield on their first drive, Highland didn’t waste any time in getting on the board. Three running plays moved the ball to the Pirate 24 and Logan Veley then darted the rest of the way for a score. Satchel Denton’s extra point kick staked them to a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
On Cardington’s next drive, they were forced to punt, but an errant snap led to a loss of yards on the play and set the Scots up with great field position on the Pirate 35. A long pass from Max Schreiber to William Parsley brought Highland to the 10 and three rushes by Jared Limings took the team the rest of the way.
After a Pirate punt, Highland drove 82 yards in only seven plays, getting carries of 39 and 26 yards by Limings. The senior back then finished the drive with a one-yard dive to stake his team to a 21-0 lead after five seconds had passed in the second quarter.
“It was one of those games we preached all week that we have to win on both sides of the ball,” said Highland coach Chad Carpenter. “It was a great team win tonight.”
On the other sideline, Pirate coach Jerry Williams could only lament his team’s slow start.
“They jumped on us early,” he said. “I don’t know if it was shell-shock or not. We just didn’t react like we had to.”
On Cardington’s next drive, they were able to move the ball to the Scot 37, but the drive stalled and they had to punt. The Scots would then immediately strike, getting a deep ball to a wide open Dylan Tuggle, who went 56 yards for the score. Schreiber then hit Veley for a two-point conversion to make the score 29-0 with 10:12 to play in the second.
Cardington would try to battle back into the game over the rest of the half. After taking the kickoff to their own 30, the team marched down the field, getting a 10-yard pass from Luke McCarrell to Devin Pearl, as well as two runs by Christian Huffman for 12 yards and a 14-yard run by Pearl on an option. McCarrell would then hit Clayton Clark in the end zone for a score to close within a 29-6 margin.
Highland looked like they’d be able to get back into the end zone, driving down the field inside the Pirate 10 thanks to a 26-yard pass to Tuggle and runs of nine and 14 yards by Veley. However, the Pirate defense would hold and Highland would settle for a Denton field goal.
The Pirates then closed out the first half’s scoring with a nine-play drive where McCarrell completed six passes — four for 33 yards to Garrett Wagner — to bring the team within scoring range. The senior quarterback then ran it in from five yards out and Branden Steckel added the extra point to make it a 32-13 game.
Cardington would not be able to close the gap in the second half. Highland took the opening kick and drove 64 yards in eight plays, scoring on a Josh Cantrell run of 14 yards to take a 39-13 lead. Turnovers then doomed Cardington, as they threw picks on their next two drives and lost a fumble on the third. Highland took advantage of that last turnover, getting a 36-yard scoring run from Limings to move in front by 33 points with under 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
“It was one of those things,” said Carpenter of the turnovers. “It’s a blessing — we had a guy in the right spot.”
Cardington would get a late touchdown on a 16-yard pass from McCarrell to Pearl, but wouldn’t be able to get back into the game. Williams noted his team simply wasn’t able to control the line of scrimmage.
“We knew their defensive line was strong,” he said. “They stopped a lot of things and when we made adjustments, it didn’t pan out for us. When you can’t control the lines, you can’t control the game. We’re a big-strike team and we made mistakes we didn’t need to make.”
After finishing tied for the league title with Fredericktown last year, Highland is hoping to finish a perfect MOAC season at home with Mount Gilead next Friday.
“We were in the same spot last year and didn’t get it done in this game,” said Carpenter. “We’re getting better every week and not taking anything for granted.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS