Throughout the week, Upper Sandusky coach Jake Moyer stressed the importance of not having another letdown like the squad experienced in last Friday’s loss to Colonel Crawford.
It was obvious the team took those words to heart, as the Rams used a balanced attack on offense and a stout defensive effort to race out to a 24-0 lead and coasted to a 38-13 non-conference win against rival Mohawk to stake claim to the Tarhe Trophy at home on Friday night.
“We stressed the fact we went out and laid an egg last week,” Moyer said. “We really did. We really got on them about that. I told them this week we’re not going to lay an egg. We’re going to come out and try to play perfectly and do it the right way.”
This marked the second time Upper Sandusky (2-1) won the trophy and the first time it swept both Wyandot County schools for bragging rights since the trophy’s inception in 2007.
The Rams made it look pretty easy in the first half, with slightly less than 200 yards on offense with almost identical numbers on the ground and through the air. Meanwhile, a strong defensive effort led by the Rams’ pressure up front limited Mohawk (1-2) to just 55 yards in the first two quarters of play.
The Warriors play in the first half did not sit well with long-time coach Erik Baker.
“We went ‘Flinstones,’’ Baker said, as his team went back to its traditional ground game in the second half.
“We’ve been trying to do this spread stuff and the gun stuff, and I’m not going to put up with it,” he added. “We went to what we’re about. We got in the ‘I’. We tried to establish the running game. I know that’s not necessarily our quarterback’s strength but it plays to our offensive line. I’m not pleased. I am not pleased at all with how we competed or didn’t compete that first half. That’s embarrassing and we’ll address that.”
Upper Sandusky scored on its opening possession of the ball game, with running back Will Adelsperger bursting into the end zone on an 8-yard run to give the home team a 6-0 advantage after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
The Rams’ offense was not off the field long, though, as two big special teams plays gave them excellent field position. Following the score, Cory Frey fell on a loose football on a squib kick giving them possession deep in their opponent’s territory. Upper Sandusky’s drive stalled out though on a fourth-and-9 at its opponent’s 10-yard line when they could not convert.
Mohawk was forced to punt, but Eric Maskey’s kick was blocked by Ian Baker and Dylan Robertson. The Rams took over just 22 yards away from pay dirt and needed just five plays before Adelsperger punched it in from 1 yard out for his second score of the night to make it 12-0 after another failed two-point try.
“The frustrating thing was they didn’t do anything we hadn’t seen on film,” Baker said. “They just executed at a very high degree. The only thing they ran that was a little bit different in the second half was the inside zone for the quarterback.”
Upper Sandusky’s defense came up with a big stop in the second quarter when Mohawk crossed the 50-yard line for the first time with help from Logan Stillberger’s 11-yard outside run. However, quarterback Drew Loose on the next play was flushed out of the pocket and his pass intended for wide receiver Mitch Parker bounced off his fingertips and into the hands of Frey for the interception.
Parker returned the favor on the following possession, though, stepping in front of an Upper Sandusky wide receiver to pick off a Tylor Pritchard pass and returning it nearly 30 yards to put the Warriors in scoring condition. Again, the Rams defense clamped down, with Brad Hoy and Cameron Crawford registering crucial sacks on third and fourth down to thwart Mohawk’s scoring opportunity.
Pritchard fueled the Rams’ next scoring drive with a run of 31 yards before finding receiver Brennen Miller open in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard strike to put them ahead 18-0 after Prtichard’s two-point attempt failed. The Upper Sandusky quarterback connected with Donald Barth with just 32 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give them a commanding lead heading into the break.
Moyer spoke about the balance his team displayed in the first half.
“The balance we showed (Friday) is to a great degree my assistant coaches,” he said. “I try not to get in their ways. I make some suggestions and they do their thing, and so far, that’s worked out.”
Upper Sandusky led as many as 30 in the third quarter after scoring after forcing another Mohawk turnover. The Rams’ Tristan Reichelderfer stripped the ball from Loose on a scramble, and Ian Baker recovered at the Rams’ own 46-yard line. Donald Barth had a run of 10 yards and Pritchard added runs of 14 and 15 yards to put the Rams again in striking distance, and Pritchard called his own number for a 9-yard touchdown run to give them their largest lead of the game with 2:37 remaining in the quarter.
Mohawk finally was able to get on the board, however, in the closing seconds of the third quarter on a little trickery, when sophomore backup running backup Gunnar Johnson took a halfback pitch from Loose and lofted a perfectly placed ball into the hands of Mitch Parker, who was downed at the Rams’ 1-yard line, Johnson scored on the next play to make it 30-6 after the failed two-point attempt.
Johnson, who got the nod over normal starter Grant Ekleberry due to injury, led the Warriors with 58 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns, the second coming in the fourth. Grant Price added 47 yards on 14 carries
“Unfortunately for us, Ekleberry had to sit out with a head injury, but I think we found Gunnar showed he can play,” Baker said. “He’s a dynamic kid. He’s got some wiggle in the open field. He’s a multi-tooled kid. He can throw it. He can catch it. And it’s a matter of getting him some reps and confidence and having some success around him. Grant Price fights to the end degree at fullback and we need more kids that can play with that fire. We’ve got some kids that are still finding themselves.”
Upper Sandusky’s final score came on another Pritchard touchdown run, this one from 7-yards out.
Pritchard rushed for 111 yards on 16 carries, and was 8 of 17 for 93 yards passing.
The Rams are home against Galion in a North Central Conference matchup this Friday, while Mohawk is home in a Midland Athletic League rivalry game against Carey.
By BRANDON DRAKE
Score by quarters
Mohawk 0 0 6 7 — 13
Upper Sandusky 12 12 6 6 — 38
US — Adelsperger 8 yard run (Pass failed), 10:06.
US — Adelsperger 1 yard run (Pass failed), 4:07.
US — Pritchard 20 yard pass to Miller (Run failed), 3:57.
US — Pritchard 8 yard pass to Barth (Pass failed), 0:32.
US — Pritchard 9 yard run (Run failed), 2:37.
M — Johnson 1 yard run (Run failed), 0:01.
US — Pritchard 7 yard run (Pritchard run), 6:16.
M — Johnson 4 yard run (Godinez kick), 5:36.
Mohawk: Loose, 6-14, 106 yards, 1 INT; Johnson, 1-1, 39 yards.
Upper Sandusky: Pritchard, 8-17, 93 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; Frey, 0-1, 0 yards.
Mohawk: Johnson, 15-58, 2 TDs; Price, 14-47; Loose, 17-31; Stillberger, 4-23.
Upper Sandusky: Pritchard, 16-11, 2 TDs; Frey, 8-33; Adelsperger, 8-29, 2 TDs; Barth, 3-20.
Mohawk: M. Parker, 4-110; Johnson, 1-33; Price, 1-1; Fitschen, 1-1.
Upper Sandusky: Barth, 5-54, 1 TD; Miller, 3-39, 1 TD.
First downs 13 11
Rushing 50-159 35-193
Passing 7-15 8-18
Passing Yards 145 93
Passes Intercepted By 1 1
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Punts 0-0 4-38.3
Penalties 5-35 4-40