By ROB HAMILTON
A fast start combined with a tendency to get big plays when needed paved the way to a big home victory over arch-rival Mount Gilead for the Cardington football team.
In their 48-20 win over the Indians, Cardington was able to convert two third-and-long situations on their way to an opening-drive touchdown. They started out backed up in their own territory, but on third-and-12 from their own 15, quarterback Luke McCarrell hit Daniel Kill for 14 yards. They would lose three yards over their next two plays, but got another big play when McCarrell connected with Trey Williams for 38 yards. A personal foul on the Indians moved the ball to the MG 21.
On the next play, McCarrell would throw another completion, to Kill again for a 21-yard score. Branden Steckel added the point-after kick to make the score 7-0. Things would go from bad to worse for Mount Gilead, as they fumbled the ensuing kickoff to give the Pirates the ball on the Indian 29. Five plays later, David Cain scored from four yards out and Steckel added the kick to give Cardington a 14-point lead at the 7:40 mark of the opening quarter.
“It was a good start,” said Pirate coach Jerry Williams. “It was the start these guys needed. The offensive line’s pass-blocking was excellent. Luke was able to move around and when you give him a lot of time, he’ll make good decisions.”
There was still plenty of scoring to go in the opening quarter, as Mount Gilead immediately responded by driving 51 yards in seven plays to score on a four-yard run by Alex Ferguson. Ferguson added a two-point conversion run to bring MG within six points.
However, Cardington would respond and get a 43-yard scoring pass from McCarrell to Williams to make things 21-8 late in the period.
Mount Gilead would then squander a pair of chances to potentially cut into that lead, fumbling on two straight possessions while in Pirate territory. Indian coach Jason Ross noted that his team simply made too many mistakes to win.
“We just had mental mistakes with turnovers and I look at our tackling the same way, as well as penalties,” he said. “It’s just a lack of focus and discipline and that’s 100 percent on me to fix it.”
Cardington would score late in the second quarter on an eight-yard pass from McCarrell to Devin Pearl, but the Indians were able to respond going into the locker room, driving 78 yards in 10 plays in the final minutes of the half. Deondre Cook completed four passes on the drive, including a 37-yard strike to Tyler Bland that put the ball on the one. Jonah Barnett took the ball in the rest of the way to bring his team within a 28-14 margin at the intermission.
Getting the ball first to open the second half, MG continued to work back into the game, going 72 yards on nine plays, with Cook running the final 30 to make it an eight-point game.
That momentum would disappear as quickly as it came, though. Cardington got the ball on their own 37 after the kickoff and Williams immediately broke a 58-yard run to set up a short Kill touchdown.
“We scored and they busted a long run by #11 — he’s a good player,” said Ross. “That kind of swung the momentum.”
The Pirate senior struck again later in the quarter, snagging a fumble and rumbling 68 yards for the touchdown to turn what had been an eight-point game into a 21-point margin with 3:05 remaining in the third.
“Trey might not be the most athletic kid in the world, but he has the biggest heart,” said Coach Williams. “He’s not going to give up. That’s all I’ve asked and he certainly has done it.”
In the early moments of the fourth quarter, the Pirates added one more score — a 36-yard pass from McCarrell to Pearl — to provide the final points of the contest.
“Our tackling is not good right now,” said Ross. “It’s on me to get that fixed. It’s consistency. We talked about dealing with success, whether it be a play or a quarter and to maintain that. We’re struggling to do that right now.”
For the Pirates, who now are 3-1, the key is to maintain the good start to the season. Coach Williams noted that they started 3-1 last year before suffering a blowout loss to Centerburg — whom they’ll visit next Friday — and falling to 4-6.
“It is a great boost,” he said. “We needed to get that one. We were in the same position last year and won’t forget that. I don’t have to say who we’ll play next week. They know all about it.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS