Highland put its running game to good use during Homecoming night when the Scots topped Mount Gilead 42-8 to move to 5-1, 3-0 in Knox Morrow Athletic Conference play.
All six Scot touchdowns, as well as a pair of two-point conversions came on the ground on the night, making head coach Chad Carpenter happy.
“Exactly,” he said. “I thought the line did a good job and the backs ran hard.”
It looked like Highland would score on the game’s opening drive, but a fumble gave MG the ball on their own one-yard line. The Indians started well, getting first downs on the ground from Hunter Trimmer and Timmy Brower and one through the air on a pass from Seth Young to Mason Mollohan, but the drive stalled on their own 35 and a fake punt attempt backfired to give the Scots the ball on the Gilead 24.
“We gave them a short field a couple times in the first half,” said Indian coach Joe Ulrey. “Obviously, with a team as good as Highland, you can’t put yourself in that bind.”
The Scots showed why, as it took them two plays to get into the end zone. Brock Veley took the first handoff 18 yards and then got the ball again for a six-yard score. Brody Matthews added a two-point run to give Highland an 8-0 lead five minutes into the game.
Mount Gilead would struggle on offense for the rest of the first half, only getting three first downs, two via penalty, over the remainder. Meanwhile, the Scots had no such troubles, putting the ball in the end zone four more times before the break.
On their next drive, it only took them two plays to travel 66 yards. After Matthews ran for 10 yards, Jack Weaver got the ball and sprinted 56 yards to paydirt with 4:52 left in the opening period.
Highland’s next drive was ended by a Brower interception, but the Scots forced a three-and-out and regained possession on the Indian 28 after a good punt return by Veley. The junior back then got the ball and covered the entire distance in one play. Veley also scored on the two-point conversion attempt to give his team a 22-0 lead.
The refs were active on MG’s next drive. The Indians were called for an early personal foul to give them first-and-25 from their 15, but Highland gave them the yardage back with a pass interference and later were called for a personal foul to move the ball to the MG 44. A scramble by Young put the Indians in Scot territory, but the drive stalled and the team would have to punt.
Carpenter noted his team was mistake-prone early, but his defense was able to make up for those errors.
“We had a lot of mistakes and penalties hurt us early,” he said. “Our defense played really well, I thought. They were very consistent.”
And it didn’t hurt that his special teams struck again, as Veley returned the punt all the way to to the Indian four-yard line, setting up a short run by Matthews to make the score 28-0. After forcing another three-and-out, Highland would add one more touchdown before the half, as the team drove 65 yards in eight plays, getting a one-yard run by Veley for six points and a kick from Jarin Vasquez to add a seventh.
“We struggled with keeping our edge defense,” said Ulrey. “We didn’t have the attack we needed. Other than that, I was pretty happy with our defensive effort. I thought the kids played hard. We need to be more consistent finishing.”
The Indians got some big plays to get in scoring position to open the second half, with Mollohan hauling in a 44-yard pass from Young and Hunter Trimmer running for 27 more, but Isaiah Stoneburner picked off an Indian pass in the end zone to end that threat.
Highland would then drive down and wind up scoring on an 18-yard run by Josh Cantrell. Vasquez added the point after to give his team a 42-point lead.
MG would avoid the shutout on their next drive, though. Starting from their 30, they got their first first down on a Scot pass interference. Young then hit Mollohan for 38 yards and connected with Brewer for nine more. Two plays later, Young found Brewer again for a seven-yard touchdown. He would then hit Mollohan for a two-point conversion.
“Our running backs ran hard and picked up tough yards and Mason Mollohan is a match-up nightmare for most defenses,” said Ulrey. “They’re slowly starting to realize our offense can move the ball — we just need to hit on all cylinders.”
That touchdown came early in the fourth quarter. Neither team would be able to move the ball the rest of the game, though, as Highland stayed perfect in their quest for a second-straight outright league title after tying for the top spot with next week’s opponent Fredericktown in 2015.
“Fredericktown is another backyard rival and I’m sure it’ll be another really good game again,” said Carpenter.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS