Competing in a KMAC contest with huge implications on the league race, Mount Gilead couldn’t overcome a slow start in falling 28-14 to Centerburg. With the win, the Trojans are, along with Danville, 4-0 in league play; while Mount Gilead is 2-2 in the league and 4-3 overall.
The culprit? The start to the game, as MG surrendered touchdowns to the Trojans on each of their first three drives. Centerburg took the opening kick and drove 62 yards on 11 plays before getting a short touchdown run by Caylan LeMaster to lead 7-0. The Indians would then go three-and-out and the Trojans wasted no time in making them pay, as quarterback Tyler Johnson hit Mason Turske for a 40-yard touchdown to make it a two-score game with 4:35 to go in the opening period.
“I’m really proud of the guys because they played themselves into a very meaningful game tonight and, obviously, they were excited,” said head coach Mike Reid. “A very great crown here tonight and maybe that was part of it, but we dug ourselves a hole early. We didn’t get ourselves started right tonight and that’s the difference in the game.”
Mount Gilead wouldn’t let things get out of control, though. Owen High had a good return on the ensuing kickoff to give his team the ball on their 49. After a pair of runs by Garrett George netted three yards, Matthew Bland scrambled 15 yards for a first down. After taking a sack, Bland hit Logan High for receptions of eight and six yards and then ran for 24 on fourth-and-two. That run took it to the Trojan one and Bland then added the final yard on a dive.
“That can snowball out of control real quickly,” said Reid. “I’m proud of the guys, they trust the process. They want to win, they want to make the effort and they believe in themselves. They regrouped and got that drive together and got a little momentum.”
While the Indians couldn’t convert their two-point conversion attempt, they had gotten within a 14-6 margin late in the first. Unfortunately, Centerburg would strike quickly again, with Johnson rushing for a 38-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
Reid noted that the Trojan run game was tough to handle, as Johnson is a good dual-threat quarterback who has a quality running back in LeMaster behind him.
“Centerburg has a lot of nice weapons,” he said. “You have to give them credit. Tyler Johnson is a great player and Caylin LeMaster’s a great compliment to him. Without a doubt, that was difficult.”
Mount Gilead was able to keep Centerburg off the scoreboard the rest of the way in the first half, though, and then made a run at the Trojans on their first drive of the third quarter. Owen High returned the kick to the Indian 44. Two runs by George and a pass from Bland to the senior running back moved it to the Trojan 45 and a 17-yard scramble by Bland got it to the 28.
The team continued to work down the field until a pass from Bland to George covered the final nine yards. Bland then hit Cameron Vickers for a two-point conversion to make it a 21-14 game.
Mount Gilead’s defense would then rise up to stop Centerburg three straight times, but the team just couldn’t find a way to tie the game, going three-and-out on their next drive and punting after gaining one first down after each of the next two.
The Trojans then struck after that third scoreless MG drive, getting a 31-yard run by Johnson to move the ball from their 35 to the MG 34 and then working their way down the field until a 15-yard pass from Johnson to Tristin Hankinson put the ball into the end zone for the game-clinching touchdown.
Despite coming up short against Centerburg, Reid noted that his team was heading in the right direction. After a few years of little success, they worked their way into a very important game in the seventh week of the season.
“It’s another building block,” he said. “It’s a credit to the players and fans and community — they’ve bought in and supported the program and the kids come into work every single day. Last year, our motto was to “be the change” and they changed some things last year and built themselves up into the offseason and this season. They’re going to come back here tomorrow morning and we’ll get ready for Northmor.”
Bland ran for 112 yards and threw for 113 more on 9-of-15 passing. George added 59 on the ground and caught three balls for 15 yards. Gabe Simpson had two catches for 24 and Mason Barnum had one 38-yard reception.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS