One wouldn’t know that the Highland football team was 0-4 coming into their Friday night home contest against Cardington from watching them play.
The Scots scored on every series they held the ball with the exception of their final one of the first half, in which they simply took a knee to head into the locker room, and never trailed in topping their Morrow County foes by a 62-20 margin.
“We talked all week long about playing consistent football,” said Highland head coach Matt Jones. “The kids worked extremely hard all week and got rewarded today.”
After forcing a three-and-out on Cardington’s game-opening possession, it didn’t take long for the Scots to strike. Runs by Landyn Albanese, Kadin Johnson and Layton Shaffer netted 33 yards and Johnson then hit Chase Ray for 21 more to put the ball on the Pirate 15. After a short loss on a running play, Highland then reached the end zone on a 17-yard run by Albanese to take a 6-0 lead.
It wouldn’t even take a minute for the team to add to that advantage, as Landon Remmert picked off a Nate Hickman pass and sprinted 45 yards for a score. Riley Kemmer added the first of eight successful extra point kicks and it was 13-0.
Another Pirate punt sent the ball back to the Scots, leading to a drive that ended with a six-yard scoring run by Jack Weaver and a 20-0 lead at the 2:38 mark of the first. Cardington coach Tim Plumley noted that his team had trouble establishing the run against Highland, which put their offense in a hole.
“We didn’t have very many positive run plays the whole night,” he said. “Then we ended up throwing it more than we wanted to. They’re pretty big up front.”
However, Cardington wouldn’t need their run game to get on the scoreboard. Taking possession of the ball on the Scot 47, they immediately reached the end zone on a long pass from Hickman to Trey Brininger to make it 20-7.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, Highland’s offense was not to be denied that night. Johnson scrambled for 53 yards and got more tacked on after a Cardington penalty to set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Albanese.
Leading 27-7, the Scots forced another Pirate punt and immediately added to their lead, as Weaver took the drive’s first handoff and dashed 81 yards for another touchdown, giving his team a 34-7 lead.
Cardington would respond quickly, as Ayden Plowman ran for an 18-yard touchdown, but a 39-yard pass from Johnson to Jon Jensen set up a 15-yard scoring pass from the Highland quarterback to Shaffer that made the score 41-14 with over eight minutes remaining in the half.
The team would add seven more points before the intermission, as on their next possession, runs of 10 and 30 yards by Weaver set up a six-yard scramble by Johnson. While Cardington was able to move the ball into Highland territory on their final possession of the first half, a fumble allowed the Scots to go into the locker room with a 48-14 advantage.
Jones noted that his team worked this week to implement more players into the offense.
“We changed a couple things up,” he said. “We’re keeping it simple and tried to get the ball into a couple different hands tonight.”
With a running clock throughout the second half, Highland got a 21-yard touchdown run from Garison Hankins and a 46-yard score on the ground by Gavin Hankins. Cardington finished the night’s scoring when Ashton Plowman ran the ball in from nine yards out on the final play of the game.
Plumley simply felt his team wasn’t able to play consistently enough to keep up with the Scots.
“We were kind of searching on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We did have good plays and a couple good drives, but we were limited to that. They (Highland) did a good job on defense and ran the ball pretty well.”
Hickman completed four passes for 91 yards, with Brininger recording a pair of receptions for 65 of that total. On the ground, Ayden Plowman’s 54 yards paced the team. Of Highland’s 571 total yards, 481 came on the ground, with Weaver rushing for 182, Johnson scrambling for 90 and Albanese adding 87. Johnson also threw for 90 yards, with Remmert catching a pair of passes for 52.
Jones is hoping his team’s breakout performance will set the stage for a strong second half to the season.
“Hopefully, this will help us the second half of the season,” he said. “We’re definitely excited now. We’re going to enjoy it tonight and it’s back to work tomorrow morning.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS