While the end result of Highland’s Friday night football game against visiting Ontario might not have been to coach Matt Jones’ liking, he could not fault his team’s second-half effort.
After falling behind 21-0 at intermission — thanks in no small part to four turnovers — the Scots rebounded to play their opponents equally over the final 24 minutes of what became a 28-7 defeat.
“In the first half, we started out slow,” said Jones. “We had four turnovers in the first half. Our defense was playing well. Our offense, not so much. In the second half, I told the kids I was very impressed with their effort. They never gave up and played them 7-7 in the second half. There’s no quit in our kids.”
In the first half, Highland lost three fumbles and threw an interception. They also turned the ball over on downs at the Ontario 40 on their possession and suffered another turnover on downs when a punt snap was misplayed in the second quarter.
Those miscues gave Ontario very short fields for two of their touchdowns. Their first score, which took place at the 3:03 mark of the first period, was the only one in the first half where the Warriors had to start their possession on their half of the field. They wouldn’t be there long on that possession, as quarterback Ethan Snyder scrambled for 61 yards, taking the ball from the Ontario 34 to the Scot five.
While Highland would push the Warriors back three yards on the next play, Snyder would respond by calling his own number again — this time for an eight-yard touchdown run that gave his team a 7-0 lead after a Spencer Hall extra point.
Highland’s second fumble of the game, coming with about nine minutes to go in the half, would be a costly one. The Warriors took possession on the Scot 28 and were able to rely on their dual-threat quarterback again, as Snyder covered the final 18 yards with his legs to give Ontario a 14-0 lead.
A Kadin Johnson interception with 1:56 left in the half led to another rushing touchdown by Snyder from one-yard out to give Ontario a 21-0 lead at the half. Making matters worse for the Scots, the Warriors scored on a trick play on their first possession of the third quarter. Snyder completed a backwards pass to Owen Hatfield, who launched the ball deep to Nolan Payne, who took it into the end zone for a 28-point advantage.
Highland would cut down the mistakes after that score, though, and shut their opponents out the rest of the way. Despite having issues with leg cramps throughout the game, running back Jack Weaver was a workhorse for the Scot offense, taking the ball 31 times for 155 yards.
“Jack was a warrior tonight,” said Jones. “Our guys were absolute warriors up front.”
And in the fourth quarter, that effort paid off with a touchdown. Highland got the ball on their 20 after Ontario missed a field goal late in the third quarter and Weaver immediately took the ball eight yards. Johnson added a 10-yard carry and runs by Weaver and Landyn Albanese moved the ball near midfield at the Scot 48.
Before the third quarter ended, Weaver had added runs of eight, 12 and 15 yards to give his team the ball deep in Warrior territory at the 17. Five plays later, the senior back would be in the end zone with a six-yard scoring run. Riley Kemmer added the extra point to make it 28-7 with 10 minutes left in regulation. While both teams had multiple possessions during that time, neither could get back on the scoreboard, making that the final score.
Weaver also had a 25-yard reception in the game to be the workhorse in the offense. Johnson completed three passes for 29 yards in the game.
However, the most important thing for Jones was that his team got some positive momentum with their second-half play. With a young team that graduated several key linemen and skill players from the 2018 squad, he believes those second-half positive can carry over towards the future.
“We talked at halftime,” he said. “We didn’t make adjustments. We just talked. We have to believe in each other. I’m proud of them.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS