MORRAL — The football season opened a week early this year.
But Paul Butterman and his Mount Gilead teammates were obviously ready, mounting a 28-7 halftime lead and cruising to a 49-14 win over Ridgedale.
Both teams entered Friday’s contest in search of a fresh start, neither winning a game last fall.
Mount Gilead head coach Mike Reid opened his first season at the helm of the Indians, a squad hit hard by the pandemic playing only four games in 2020.
“Our kids had a rough year with Covid last year. For my seniors, I’m the fourth coach they’ve had. But God bless them, they bought in and are working hard,” Reid said.
Quarterback Carter Kennon tallied on a 1-yard run for the visitors midway through the first quarter.
After the Rockets tied the game at 7-7, on a 10-yard tosss from Kayden Lester to Landon Murphy, it was all Indians from there.
On the next series wide receiver Paul Butterman hauled in a 72-yard pass from Kennon down the right sideline and MG took a 14-7 lead.
The Indians defense was stout most of the game, holding Ridgedale to just 81 yards and 3 first downs before intermission. For the game the Rockets totaled 208 yards offense to Mount Gilead’s 329.
After stopping the Rockets and forcing a fourth down thanks to sacks by Gabe Simpson and Isaiah Fisher, they scored again when Butterman picked off a pass and returned it 90 yards for a score and a 21-7 lead.
Butterman’s third score of the half came as time expired when he caught a 13-yard pass, pushing the lead to 28-7.
He wound up with 5 receptions for 200 yards. Kennon hit on 9-of-10 pass attempts for 178 yards.
“We’re gonna take what the defense gives us. We got triple threats there with Elijah Chafin out there in the slot and Owen High, and of course Paul. They’ve got to pick what they want to do.
“Paul is a tremendous senior leader. If I want to give credit, it really helps to have a senior like Paul. Like hey, this is our last shot; let’s stick together,” Reid said.
“Defensively, I called a timeout before his Pick-6 and we changed the coverage a little bit. He said, ‘That sets me right on the ball.’ It sure did. He’s very savvy.”
Reid knows building the program is a work in progress.
“We had some first-game jitters and did some first-game stuff. We’ve got to coach that up during the week.”
“I’d been at Highland for 30 years. I decided to retire and then this job came open. It means a lot to me,” Reid said.
The team has the largest roster it’s had in recent years.
“For those 49 kids I got out, I can’t take credit for that. It speaks to a great community, great assistant coaches and parents and down-right good kids.
“The line, we’re improving and learning up front. They gave him just enough time to actually get the ball where it needs to be.”
Butterman added a 70-yard TD reception in the third quarter and High, a junior, caught a slant for 16 yards that made it 42-7.
High added 25 yards on 2 catches and Chafin 1 for 7 yards.
Garrett George scored the other MG touchdown on a 15-yard run. He had 42 yards on 6 carries.
Garrett Lamb-Hart kicked all 7 extra points.
“They wanted to make a difference. Our slogan is ‘Be the change you want to see in the program.’ They’re all starting to get on the same level.”
The Indians play Upper Sandusky at home Friday night. The Rams fell to River Valley 33-22.
“We look at film and correct our mistakes first. Try to get our kids in good spots again. It seems like we’ve been away a lot, maybe with all the 7-on-7s. We did have a home scrimmage though,” Reid said.
“Our motto is we are getting better day-by-day, rep-by-rep. We still got a lot to work on.”