Highland’s running game was too much for visiting Mount Gilead to handle on Friday night.
The Scots moved to 2-2 on the season and 1-0 in KMAC play with a 41-0 decision over MG that was sparked by a 448-yard performance on the ground. Dane Nauman accounted for 366 yards and four touchdowns, while Cody Matthews tallied the team’s other two scores on 71 yards rushing.
“Our kids are getting better every week,” said Highland coach Ty Stover, adding that his offensive line played a big role in his team’s rushing performance. “You don’t get 300+ yards if the guys up front don’t get after it.”
Early on, it looked like the Indians would have the first scoring chance. After both teams went three-and-out on their opening possession, MG took the ball on their own 30 and rode the arm of quarterback Carter Kennon into Scot territory. The junior hit Paul Butterman on passes of 10 and 11 yards and also connected with Kyan Davis on a pair of short receptions. However, the team would be stopped on the Highland 39 and punted the ball.
It wouldn’t take long for the Scot offense to assert itself. Facing third-and-seven from their 41, the team handed the ball to Nauman, who immediately provided his first score on a 59-yard run. Caleb Hunter, who was five-of-six on extra points, then made it 7-0.
The team then forced a quick punt, got the ball back and scored again in the final seconds of the opening quarter on a 10-yard run by Nauman to lead by 14.
Neither team would be able to do much offensively for much of the second period, but the Indians did threaten after receiving the ball at the 4:51 mark. A 15-yard run by Elijah Chafin followed by a 15-yard pass from Kennon to Owen High moved the ball to the Highland 35. Kennon then scrambled for six yards, but the team couldn’t advance the ball any farther.
“I told the boys I’m really proud of what they accomplished so far,” said MG coach Mike Reid. “We’re just struggling for consistency. That doesn’t shock me; that’s typical of a young ball club.”
Highland would then finish the half by a big drive. Matthews got 13 yards on third-and-19 and quarterback Zach Schmidt ran on a fake punt for 13 more. Thanks to a 20-yard run by Nauman and a 15-yard pass from Schmidt to Gavin DeBord, the team was able to get to the Indian five, setting up Nauman’s third touchdown of the half.
“He’s a special kid and a good kid,” said Reid, who was familiar with the Scot sophomore from his tenure as a Highland assistant coach. “He’s a handful and runs hard. We have to tip our hat to them.”
After Highland punted on their first possession of the second half, MG was able to move the ball from their three to the Scot 10. Garrett George started the drive with an 11-yard run and Kennon was able to connect with Butterman three times for 39 yards and once with Gabe Simpson for 11, but the team’s 17-play drive didn’t result in points when they turned it over on downs deep in Scot territory.
Stover felt that his team playing River Valley, another passing-oriented squad, the previous week helped his defense in finding a way to keep MG out of the end zone
“It actually did,” he said. “It’s hard to run that stuff in practice. It was a great week practice-wise. The kids believe in the process.”
The Scots then were able to put the game away, scoring on their final three possessions. Nauman made it 28-0 with 1:19 left in the third after sprinting 64 yards for the score. After another MG drive ended in Highland territory, Highland got a 54-yard run by Nauman and a 17-yard gain by Matthews to set up a two-yard scoring run by Matthews. Matthews would score again from six yards out in the final seconds of the contest to provide his team’s final points.
If Stover saw one thing that needs worked on, it’s penalities. The Scots were tagged 19 times for 185 yards in the contest.
“Two weeks in a row, we’ve had bad penalties on us,” he said. “We have lots of young guys without experience and penalties happen when they play hard.”
But he’s happy to take the positive momentum from a win into Centerburg for week five.
“Can’t ask for much more,” he said. “Now we focus on Centerburg. It’s all about each week, getting a little better and more confident.”
Schmidt added 43 yards passing for the Scots, with Owen Stillwell having a catch for 28 yards. For the Indians, Kennon threw for 145 and ran for 34. Butterman’s 10 catches for 96 yards led the team, while Simpson had three for 30.
Reid is simply hoping his team can take the lessons learned in this loss onto their remaining games.
“Everything we do, there’s a lesson to learn,” he said. “I hope we can turn this defeat into a victory simply by learning from it.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS