CARDINGTON — Mount Gilead first-year head coach Phil Mauro credited his senior class for the turn-around from an 0-10 campaign to a 4-6 season, 3-4 in the KMAC.
“Our seniors just provided unbelievable leadership all year long for our younger players,” Mauro said after his team’s 26-25 victory over rival Cardington in the season finale. “I’m really proud of them.”
The Indians took a 6-0 lead on Nate Rogers’s 1-yard touchdown catch from Joel Butterman on the game’s first drive. The Pirates answered as quarterback Nate Hickman scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 3-yard run with 32 seconds left in the first quarter to tie the game.
Cardington (1-9, 1-6) head coach Tim Plumley saw improvement in his squad despite a tough season.
“We’ve been up and down. I think the kids have gotten better and continued to work. We had lot of adversity on and off the field. It’s been a battle, but I think we played 2 of our better games the past 2 weeks,” he said.
Hickman scored two long TD runs covering 65 yards in the second quarter that made it 20-13 and a 56-yard scamper with just 36 seconds left in the contest. He threw for 101 yards (6-of-17) in addition to his 200 on the ground on 17 carries.
‘Nate’s a competitor. He ran the ball well. The guys up front blocked well for him. Nate’s a tough kid who wants to play. He’s still young so we have a ways to go,” Plumley said.
Brady Mermann paced Mount Gilead with 112 rushing yards on 20 carries. He added 3 catches for 52 yards. Matt Bland added 64 yards on 9 trips and caught a 4-yard pass touchdown from Rogers.
Mauro inherited two previous winless seasons in his first year at Mount Gilead.
“That’s the biggest thing; to get the kids to believe in themselves. We had a little funeral at the beginning of the year where we buried the past, Mauro said. “They just bought in and were ready for a change. They figured out what their role is and accepted it.”
Mauro said Rogers, who moved to defensive end this year, along with Mermann, Butterman and others, will be missed.
“We have a heck of a freshman class and a good eighth grade class. A lot of young guys got a lot of playing time this year so we’re real excited about the future.”
Cardington outgained Mount Gilead in total yardage 382-312, with 281 coming on the ground. Both teams had 15 first downs.
Plumley said the Pirates have a good base with young running backs, sophomore Joe Denney and freshmen Ashton and Ayden Plowman.
“We have a lot of good guys coming back. I feel bad for the seniors that this is how it ended, but it’s part of life. It teaches you to bounce back.”
Denney added 50 yards rushing on 9 carries. Ayden Plowman caught a 15-yard TD pass from Hickman. Zach Lester snagged a 19-yard scoring toss.