PREP FOOTBALL: Cardinals fly past WHSFAIRMONT — If the Fairmont Cardinals thought that earning a victory against the Worthington Trojans on Friday night would be as easy as it was in a 48-6 victory last season, they were in for a surprise.
FAIRMONT — If the Fairmont Cardinals thought that earning a victory against the Worthington Trojans on Friday night would be as easy as it was in a 48-6 victory last season, they were in for a surprise.
In the season opener for both football teams, Worthington came out of the gates strong and limited Fairmont to a 6-0 lead at halftime.
However, the Cardinals took advantage of some key Trojan errors in the second half to end up with a 40-7 victory.
“The first half we just played Trojan football the way we want to see it played,” WHS head coach Brad Grimmius said. “We were aggressive defensively — we didn’t do a lot offensively in the first half, but our defense kept us there. We had a blown coverage for a touchdown for their first six, but you’ve got to give it to the defense, they were pinned back up against the wall and got a turnover for us and we go into halftime 6-0. Last year at halftime the game was over.”
The Trojans opened the game with a quick four-and-out, which included the first of five sacks received by starting quarterback Lucas Henning in the half, but forced a turnover on downs on the ensuing Fairmont drive with the Cardinals stranded 33 yards from the end zone.
The defensive series for the Trojans included a key sack on 3rd-and-15 for FHS, with Morgan Traylor, Zach Kempema and Turner Hagen combining to take down Fairmont quarterback Ben Kain for a 10-yard loss. An incomplete pass on the next play resulted in the turnover.
The next WHS drive started with an incomplete pass and an 11-yard run from Henning (nine carries for 72 yards, eight completions for 90 yards).
However, on the next play Henning was sacked and lost the ball, with the fumble recovered by Fairmont’s Ross Wilken. The Cardinals scored on the ensuing drive on a pass from Kain to Adam Schultz to take a 6-0 lead. Fairmont’s try for the extra point missed low and to the left.
The next Worthington drive began with a 20-yard carry by AJ Hayenga (two carries for 29 yards), but the Trojans fumbled later in the drive on the first play of the second quarter.
WHS ended the following FHS drive with a turnover on downs with the Cardinals threatening 11 yards away from the end zone and Henning stopped the next Fairmont drive with an interception.
Worthington had a scoring opportunity on the final drive of the half, but Henning was sacked on the final play before time expired.
The Trojans were left in high spirits entering the locker room at halftime.
“We were excited,” WHS senior center Tanner Rogers said. “The only points they scored were on the turnover right away. They didn’t gain very many yards. Last year we were down 28-0 I think after the first quarter, so to be 6-0 at the half, that’s great.”
Fairmont didn’t wait long to score in the second half though, with Brandon Martin running for a 60-yard score on the first play of the Cardinals’ opening drive.
The Trojans showed composure by executing a 66-yard scoring drive on the very next series.
The drive included a 16-yard pass to Mitch Weg (three receptions for 34 yards) and 20-yard and 11-yard completions to Tyler Hatterman (two receptions for 31 yards), the latter putting the Trojans three yards away from the end zone.
Henning ran in on the next play to put Worthington on the board, with Jared Kinley successfully kicking the extra point to make the score 14-7.
“The positive thing is that we go down 14-0 and we answer on the next drive,” Grimmius said. “It was 14-7, so we got ourselves a heck of a ball game, but then at that point we just hit a wall. Defensively we didn’t tackle, offensively we missed key, key blocks, some receivers ran the wrong routes. That’s the game of football, that’s expected usually in the first game and we’ll go back and look at this film and see the things we’ve got to work on.”
Fairmont was able to open up the lead again with 2:43 left in the third quarter on a 57-yard completion from Kain to Schultz, the first of three consecutive long-distance scores by the Cardinals.
Blake Rogers earned a sack for WHS on the next offensive series for FHS, but the drive ended with a 43-yard touchdown run by Martin to make the score 26-7.
The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, and though Henning connected for 10 yards with Tommy Hayenga (three receptions for 25 yards) on the next play, Hayenga coughed up the ball on a hard tackle from his blindside, with the Cardinals’ Kyle Guetter returning the fumble for a 45-yard touchdown to make the score 32-7.
On first appearance it appeared that Hayenga didn’t have full possession of the ball before he was hit, but the play stood as called.
The Fairmont reserves scored a touchdown on a pass from Lukas Hested to Jacob Portz with 5:11 left in the game and successfully converted a two-point play to Jordan Voss to give the game its final score.
WHS backup quarterback Blake Schroeder had two carries for 13 yards on Worthington’s final series of the game and Marcus Potter also had an eight-yard carry during the drive.
The second half was a wake-up call for the Trojans after coming out with the first half with such high spirits.
“The guys were satisfied with just the first half,” Grimmius said. “We talked after the game, ‘Hey, you hung with one of the top teams in our section for two quarters, and you found out that it takes four quarters to play the game of football.’”
Grimmius was happy with a lot of the things his team was able to show in its first game of the season, but noted that there were a lot of small mistakes that ended up costing his team dearly.
“We moved the ball well at times, but then we stabbed ourselves in the foot,” Grimmius said. “Little things — a blown blocking assignment, dropped passes, not hitting the right hole when the crease was there — so it’s spread all across the board. There’s things that we need to work on, but there were a lot of positives.”
Grimmius was pleased from what he saw from his sophomores in their first game at the varsity level.
“At first they were a little nervous, but once the jitters got out we had some sophomores step up,” Grimmius said. “Will Dudley made some great plays out there, Zach Kempema made some great plays, Jesse (Guerra) — we need some more blocking up front for him, but he stepped right in there. I was very pleased with what we got out of our sophomores, but now, guess what — starting next week we’re going to expect them t play like juniors.”
Guerra started at tailback and also kicked off for the Trojans, running for 14 yards on seven carries.
The WHS offense’s best weapon on the night was finding holes for a number of long runs, with Henning ending up as the team’s leading rusher.
“That all starts up front, too, with the offensive line,” Tanner Rogers said. “If we get good blocks then that opens it up for the running backs back there, so that’s what we’ve got to do. It’s got to be every play though, we can’t just do it every other or every third time.”
The Trojans had 90 yards in the air and 139 yards on the ground for 229 total yards of offense.
WHS junior Blake Rogers left the game in the final quarter with what appeared to be a leg sprain, but Grimmius said that he expects Rogers to fight through the injury well.
Tanner Rogers mentioned that one thing the Trojans need to work on is picking up blitzes better, but also mentioned the team will have to put a lot of emphasis on conditioning from here on out.
Grimmius also noted that the players will need to get in shape for the rest of the schedule, which will start Friday in the team’s home opener and conference opener against Jackson County Central.
“(Jackson County Central is) going to see the tape, we know exactly what they’re going to see and probably try to hit,” Grimmius said. “We’ve got to improve, we’ve got to get in better shape — we had guys kind of sucking wind at the end there. And that all plays into mental toughness, which is what we push at practice. You’ve got to be mentally tough when you play football, and Jackson’s going to be no different than what we saw out of Fairmont tonight. They’re a very physical, hard-hitting team, so we’re going to have to elevate our game. The good thing is it’s the first conference game of the year.”
Tanner Rogers is eager to put in the work necessary to come out strong against the Huskies.
“We’ve got to get in better shape, we kind of wore out in the second half, but that will come along,” Tanner Rogers said. “We’ve got Jackson in the conference opener next Friday, that’s more important than this game so we’ll try to go out there and get that one.
“It doesn’t feel good getting beat 40-7, but we can take good stuff from the first half, work on that in practice, get in better shape next week and get ready for Jackson.”
Worthington 0 0 7 0 — 7
Fairmont 6 0 14 20 — 40