Big Walnut’s football home opener began with promise, but ended up in a 35-7 rout by Mansfield Senior.
Styrofoam cups stuck in wire fence holes said Fly High MCY #11, and We Love U Meech, referring to Mitchell Young, a sophomore football player who died earlier this summer in an auto accident. The team ran through a banner that expressed similar sentiments: Do it for Meech.
Mansfield took opening kick and drove for two first downs before a receiver fumbled, when the ball was recovered by senior defensive back Philip Roberto. After rushing for a first down, a fumbled snap was recovered by Mansfield’s Caleb Jacklin. Senior running back Brian Benson, arguably the star of the game, rumbled for a 36-yard touchdown with 7:06 to go in the first quarter, giving the Tygers a 7-0 lead.
David Hunt had a long kickoff return to give the Golden Eagles good field position. Junior quarterback John Sutton connected with junior Hunt on a screen pass for a first down. However, Sutton’s next pass was intercepted by Tre’suan Windham. Roberto made a touchdown-saving tackle on Benson, and junior defensive back Colin White broke up a fourth down sideline pass. However, Big Walnut went three and out to end the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Mansfield drove deep, but Ethan Luedy missed a field goal attempt. The senior kicker did convert all of his point-after attempts, though. After a Big Walnut drive stalled, White partially blocked a Luedy punt, which seemed to inspire the Eagles. A catch by senior Kaleb Kocak, and rushes by senior Evan Garcia got the ball to the one-yard line, where Hunt scored to tie the game at 7 with 2:18 left in the half.
Despite a good tackle by Kocak on the next drive, Mansfield’s junior quarterback Sid Caudill threw a short screen to Benson, who ran 75 yards for the Tygers’ go-ahead touchdown. The Eagles couldn’t answer, but held Mansfield to end the half down 14-7.
The halftime shows featured Mansfield playing Bruno Mars hits, and Big Walnut performing movie music and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. The student cheering section was in full voice, and the cheerleaders were great, even if their Frisbee throwing wasn’t.
Hunt had another good return to start the second half, but Sutton threw another interception to Windham, who had a 26-yard pick-six to put Mansfield up 21-7 with 10:55 in the third. Junior Tyler H. Ronk took over at quarterback, but the Eagles continued to sputter.
A long pass by Caudill to senior Brandon Myers, set up a five-yard score down the middle by sophomore Alamar Grose. With 5:52 left in the third, Mansfield was in control 28-7.
In the fourth, Benson tacked on a 20-yard touchdown run to give Mansfield the final score of 35-7. The final 4:35 took a while to play, with cramps and penalties bogging down the game.
There were a few bright spots in the second half for Big Walnut, though — Garcia had a sparkling 26-yard run, Hunt ran hard, and Ronk connected with his receivers on some short yardage passes.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.