FREDERICKTOWN — The Highland football team tried to give away their game against Fredericktown early; decided they weren’t in the giving mood; then watched as the Freddies snatched the game back away from them in the end.
After giving up the first 21 points of the game, the Scots stormed back with 21 unanswered, but the Freddies were able to right the ship and pulled out a hard-fought 28-21 victory in the season opener Friday at Fredericktown.
“It was a topsy-turvy game,” said Highland coach Chad Carpenter. “It was a game of mistakes on both sides, but we made a lot more mistakes. ... We did not capitalize as much as they did against us.”
The two football heavyweights slugged it out early before Fredericktown was able to gain some momentum thanks to the first of many mistakes by the Scots. After forcing the Freddies into a punting situation, the Scots ran into punter Matt Smith, giving the Freddies new life.
Fredericktown made the Scots pay, cruising 55 yards on six plays behind the strong running of Smith. The junior ran for 51 yards on the drive, finishing it off with an easy 21-yard touchdown run.
Highland gave the Freddies another great opportunity when it failed on a fake punt attempt on the next possession. The Freddies needed just four plays to score. Quarterback Ryan Logan had the big play, running 30 yards around the right end for the touchdown.
“We wanted to open up the playbook. We’ve got great athletes we wanted to use,” said Fredericktown coach Brian Baum.
A third Highland miscue led to another Fredericktown score. It looked like the game might be over when Smith threw a halfback pass to Brandon Helmick, who scored from 51 yards out.
“Anytime they turn the ball over, you have to score. We did a nice job taking advantage tonight,” Baum said.
“Throughout the game, we had too many mistakes and costly penalties,” Carpenter said. “In a game like this, you can’t make mistakes.”
But, that’s when the Scots decided they weren’t ready to give away their first game.
Highland opened up its offensive playbook, and quarterback Josh Gahm started connecting on passes. A 33-yarder to David Fisher and a 15-yarder to Shawn Beltz put the Scots in scoring position and Hayden Mailey put it away with a 3-yard jaunt.
Baum knew the game wasn’t over yet and tried to relay that to his team at halftime. But, a fired up Highland squad, fresh off a halftime challenge from Carpenter, took control in the second half.
Michael Halpin gave the Scots just what the doctor ordered, intercepting a Logan pass and racing 50 yards to the end zone. The two-point conversion run by Mailey put the Scots back within a touchdown.
The Scots then surprised everyone on the Freddie kickoff team with a pooch kick down the left sideline that Kyle Minyo was able to dive on. Mailey then took over, running the ball seven straight times for 32 yards. William Green finished off the drive with a 5-yard run and, all of a sudden, the game was tied.
“I knew they would battle back and that the halftime lead was not safe,” Baum said. “We had a silly penalty and the interception came right after that and you could feel the momentum swing.”
“We came in and challenged them at halftime,” Carpenter said. “They came out and responded well. We told them to try and get a positive play and let it snowball from there. (The interception) got the momentum to shift in our direction.”
The Freddies could have rolled over at that time, but didn’t, and went back to its power running game. Joey Burns, Smith and Cody McGuire all started pounding the ball right at the Scots. McGuire had the big play of the drive, going 33 yards on a punishing draw play on third down. Logan finished off the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
“We had to pull the kids aside and remind them that it was only tied,” Baum said. “They (the Scots) were celebrating like they won the game and our heads were down, but we needed to just go out and win the game. The kids did just that.”
From there, the Freddies were able to shut down the Scots and hold on for the win.
Smith finished the night with 138 yards rushing on 23 carries to lead all running backs. McGuire added 58 yards, all in the second half, while Logan had 42 rushing for the Freddies. Logan connected on 5 of 11 passes for 58 yards, and Smith completed his only pass, the 51-yard touchdown pass to Helmick. Helmick caught five passes for 103 yards receiving.
Highland was led by Mailey, who carried the ball 17 times for 94 yards. Green added 29 yards rushing. Gahm completed 8 of 15 passes for 103 yards. Jordan Wheeler caught three of those passes for 37 yards.
The Scots will return home next Friday and begin Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference play against North Union, while the Freddies host Bishop Ready. Game time for both contests is 7 p.m.