FREDERICKTOWN — The Fredericktown football team was looking to get off to a quick start to the 2009 season. Mission accomplished.
The Freddies scored 31 points in the first half, and rolled to a 54-20 victory over backyard rival Highland on Saturday.
The Freddies started the game on fire on Friday night, scoring twice before a lightning storm forced the postponement until Saturday. They picked right up where they left off, scoring on the next drive to take command 21-0.
“Playing a team like Highland, we knew we had to get off to a fast start. We did that last (Friday) night,” said Fredericktown coach Luke Beal. “They (Highland) have a great running game. We really wanted to try and put the pressure on them and to take a little bit of the pressure off our defense. So, to get 14 last night and then the first drive today, we thought was really critical. We wanted to keep the momentum.”
Fredericktown (1-0) had opened the game Friday with a 58-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 2-yard run from quarterback Thomas Hinkle. The Freddies added another score later in the first quarter when Tony Lybarger forced a Highland fumble, which Nathan Cubbage picked up and cruised 30 yards for the score.
The Freddies, who had the ball back when lightning forced the postponement of the game, kept the momentum going when Hinkle ran in for another score. With a minute still remaining in the first quarter, Fredericktown led 21-0.
Fredericktown upped the lead to 31-0 at halftime thanks to an 18-yard run from C.J. Ruhl and a 37-yard field goal from Branden Smith.
“Fredericktown came out and took the wind out of our sails right from the get-go and it never seemed like we could recover,” said Highland coach Chad Carpenter. “We got into a position where we had to play catch-up and that’s a bad position to be.”
Highland wasn’t quite ready to go home, though. The Scots got the ball to open the second half and watched as Justin Staton rambled 73 yards for the touchdown. Just two plays later, Staton picked off a Fredericktown pass and returned it 20 yards for the score. Just over a minute into the third quarter and Highland had scored twice.
“There in the third quarter when they got those two quick scores, I thought things were getting a little hairy,” said Beal. “You’ve got to give Highland credit. They battled until the end.”
Fredericktown was able to right the ship on the next drive, going 65 yards in nine plays to push the lead back to 21 points (38-14). A big key to the drive was a 24-yard pass play from Hinkle to Lybarger on third and long early in the drive.
“That was really key. We knew at that point, after giving up those two quick scores, that we had to respond. We were a little bit rattled and had to get settled down,” said Beal. “Tony Lybarger had a big reception there and got us some breathing room. Then we calmed down a little bit. Yeah, getting points there was very important.”
From there, big plays ruled the rest of the way. Fredericktown added scores on a 48-yard pass from Hinkle to Tyler Hathaway and a 45-yard punt return by Lybarger. Highland’s final score came on an 86-yard run by Staton.
Thanks to the two big runs from Staton, the stat sheet looked similar as both teams totaled 347 yards. Staton finished with 231 yards rushing on 24 carries, including the two long touchdown runs. Will Green added 41 yards rushing for Highland. Quarterback Kyle Davies completed 6-of-16 passes for 40 yards.
“It didn’t seem like the entire game we could find our niche or any type of rhythm on either side of the ball. The kids just never got in a groove,” said Carpenter. “Give Fredericktown credit. They’ve really got a nice team this year. They’re big and physical and very aggressive. We just didn’t answer it.”
Fredericktown spread the wealth around offensively. The Freddies were led by Hinkle, who rushed for 89 yards and passed for another 134. Austin Hoeflich, Lybarger and Ruhl added 39, 34 and 32 yards rushing, respectively. Hathaway caught two passes for 55 yards and Lybarger had two receptions for 36.
“I thought offensively we had a lot of kids make plays at different times in the game,” said Beal. “That’s one thing we really look for. We’ve got a lot of pretty good skilled kids, so we try to get the ball in their hands and let them make plays.”
The Freddies play host to Berne Union on Friday night, while the Scots will open play in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference when they travel to River Valley.
“I told the kids, as far as I’m concerned, we start a nine-game season now,” said Carpenter. “After a game like this it can only go up. We just need to regroup and start over tomorrow and get ready for River Valley.”