A powerful rushing attack paced Highland to a 41-8 home win over River Valley that moved them to a 2-1 mark entering conference play.
The Scots outgained their opponents 460-155, with 449 of those yards coming on the ground. Highland heavily relied on a quartet of running backs, all of whom had chances to shine on the night. Tate Tobin finished with 153 yards and three touchdowns to lead the team. Both Brody Matthews (118 yards) and Jack Weaver (95) added one rushing score apiece. While Brock Veley (70) didn’t rush for a touchdown, he also contributed to the scoring as he returned an interception 45 yards for points in the fourth quarter. And, according to head coach Chad Carpenter, that isn’t even all the options he has at running back.
“We have five running backs and we count heavily on them based on what the defense gives,” he said. “They feed off each other.”
The Scots also counted heavily on a defense that picked off Viking quarterback Jake Green four times on the night, which played a role in the team getting off to a quick start and taking a 20-0 lead after the opening quarter. After River Valley went three-and-out on their first possession, Highland received the ball on their on 27 line and promptly drove down the field.
A 34-yard Veley run immediately moved the ball into RV territory and the team continued to eat up yards on the ground until Tobin scored from three yards out to give Highland a 6-0 lead less than four minutes into the contest.
Tobin then intercepted Green and looked like he would take the ball into the end zone, but a penalty on the Scots moved it back to the Viking 19. That only delayed Highland briefly, though, as Tobin scored on a four-yard run three plays later, making it 12-0. Ian Taylor would then record an interception. While the Scots would not be able to score on that drive, turning the ball over on downs at the RV 20, their defense would get another quick three-and-out.
This time, they would not be stopped, as Weaver took a handoff 76 yards to paydirt. Tobin added a two-point conversion and it was 20-0 after 12 minutes of action.
“We talked all week about how it was very important to get a quick start,” said Carpenter. “We were concernred going into the game because they had lots of weapons. The kids made great plays when they needed to. I’m pleased with how they performed.”
The second quarter was scoreless most of the way through, but with under five minutes to go, Highland got their third interception of the game, as Jarin Vasquez picked off a Green pass at his team’s one-yard line to end what had been a promising drive by the Vikes.
Two runs by Matthews moved the ball to the 18. Then, after going to the 30, Highland got a 58-yard run by Tobin to get deep into RV territory. Four plays later, Tobin scored on a six-yard run and followed that up by catching a two-point pass from Taylor, allowing the Scots to go into the locker room up by 28 points.
After stopping another quality drive by RV early in the third quarter, Highland got their lead over the 30-point margin on a 65-yard scoring run by Matthews to move the game into running-clock territory. They added insurance points in the fourth, when Veley picked off a pass and took the ball 45 yards for a final touchdown.
“I was happy with how we responded,” said Carpenter. “We had a little adversity coming out in the first half, but the kids handled it.”
While Green scored for RV on a 22-yard run in the final minutes of the game, the Scots were able to finish the game with a decisive win — just what Carpenter wanted to see going into the league portion of the schedule, which opens Friday at Danville.
“Coach Honabarger will have them ready to go,” said the coach of his upcoming opponent. “It’s always exciting to get into league play.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS