WELLSTON — Despite some positive flashes from a young Wellston High School football team, the West Jefferson Roughriders simply ran over, around and through the hosts on Friday night.
The Roughriders racked up 458 yards of total offense, and scored 42 points in the first half, en route to rolling the Golden Rockets 55-8 at C.H. Jones Field in Wellston.
The Roughriders raised their overall record to a perfect 3-0, and extended their regular-season winning streak to 15 games. Last season, West Jefferson won its first 12 tilts before losing to Amanda-Clearcreek in the Division V, Region 19 finals.
The contest also marked the homecoming for West Jefferson head coach Shawn Buescher, who played for the Golden Rockets and was later an assistant coach in the program.
“I have many fond memories of playing here and coaching here,” said Buescher of his return to Wellston. “Tonight was a very special night for our kids and for me.”
The loss leaves the current Rockets winless in three starts.
Wellston actually led 8-7 just three minutes into the game, but West Jefferson scored just two minutes later en route to rolling up 48 unanswered.
The Roughriders sandwiched a pair of 14-point quarters around a 28-point second period. They also scored on eight of their first nine possessions.
They scored on six of seven possessions in the first half alone.
“Our kids have been in some big games before, and once you get to the point where you have a lot of veteran kids on your football team in those positions, they understand the little things it takes to be successful,” said Buescher.
Sophomore signal-caller D.J. Mendenhall threw for 158 yards and three touchdowns on 8-of-13 passing, as standout receiver Zach Williams made four catches for 99 yards and one touchdown himself.
The Roughriders’ running game nearly hit the 300-yard mark, carrying 49 times for a massive 295 yards on the young Rocket defense.
“We like to spread it out to run the football,” said Buescher. “We make no bones about that. We want to try and be balanced. The core of what we’re trying to do at the beginning of the football game is to establish the run, and everything else we do in the passing game is based off of that.”
Wellston has now allowed 172 points in its three losses, including 159 offensive markers.
“We’re obviously disappointed. We absolutely can not give up 55 points,” said first-year Wellston coach Jason Mantell. “Right now, we don’t have a good defensive team. The key is not to change everything, but we’ve tried different fronts and everything. We’re not breaking down and tackling and covering our responsibilities.”
Mendenhall was the leading ground gainer for West Jefferson, rushing seven times for 74 yards while Kyle Murry added 49 yards and Shane Cahill 34 more.
Murry — from five yards out — and Cahill — from 21 yards away — collected first-half rushing touchdowns, as did Josh Hoffman on an 18-yard burst.
Hoffman’s jaunt, which made the score 13-8, put West Jefferson in front to stay with seven minutes remaining in the first period.
The score capped a six-play, 56-yard drive, and was aided by a pass from Mendenhall to Shane Brintlinger for 13 yards down to the Wellston 18.
In addition to Williams, Eric Love and Cody Woodard caught touchdown passes from Mendenhall.
Love, on the fourth play from scrimmage, hauled in a pass from Mendenhall, and raced down the sideline for a 32-yard hookup.
Woodard then caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with just 1:20 remaining in the first half. The sixth of six successful extra-point kicks by Dmitriy Prokhnevskiy made it 42-8 going into halftime.
His seventh extra-point boot was blocked, but he converted on his final try to make the score 55-8.
As a team, the Roughriders ran 63 plays from scrimmage, amassed 25 first downs and limited the Rocket rushing attack to only 50 yards on 23 carries.
West Jefferson also benefited from good field position all night, including a pair of Wellston lost fumbles and two 12-yard punts in the first half.
The Madison Countians’ longest scoring drive in the first half was only six plays, with the longest drive in terms of yards being the first which covered 61.
In the second half, Brandon Snyder scored on a three-yard run before Kyle Ingles capped the Roughrider scoring with a 14-yard burst up the middle with 3:37 left in the third.
Ingles, with seven carries in the half, chipped in 43 yards.
Wellston, meanwhile, despite being limited to only nine first downs and as many rushing yards as plays, did show some flashes of brilliance.
Six of their nine first downs came in the first half, including three in succession on a pair of 10-yard passes followed by a 60-yard touchdown strike from Cody Wilkett to Jeff Matteson.
Matteson made a catch behind a Roughrider defender and sprinted to the end zone down the right sideline.
On the extra-point attempt, Ryan Darnell picked up a loose ball and threw it to Ryan Wagener, who made the catch and put the Rockets in front for the first time all season.
However, trailing 14-8, Wellston could not keep up with West Jefferson in a potential shootout.
The Blue and Gold drove to the West Jeff 42, but fumbled the ball for the first time and the Roughriders recovered.
After neither team scored on its next possession, West Jefferson needed just two plays and 28 yards to increase the lead to 21-8 and seize control of the contest.
Cahill completed the short possession with his 21-yard touchdown dart up the middle on a fullback trap. The Roughriders needed just 62 seconds in the second quarter to score.
After forcing Wellston into its first punt, West Jefferson then scored on three plays when Williams took the screen pass for the final 46 yards of a 51-yard drive.
The Roughriders then tallied their fifth touchdown of the half in two plays and 30 yards, and the final in five plays and 52 yards.
Both scores in the second half covered seven snaps, and went for 40 and 30 yards respectively.
In fact, the deepest starts they endured all night were their final two possessions, both which began at the 29-yard line. The first ended in a fumbled snap with the second stalling after a lengthy trek to the Wellston 19.
For the Rockets, they punted six times after six three-and-outs, and fumbled a total of five times on the evening.
They did record 154 yards passing, as Wilkett was 12-of-27 to a half-dozen receivers. Matteson and Matt Lockard made three catches apiece, with Matteson managing 76 yards and Lockard 26.
A key, though, was West Jefferson limiting Lockard to only eight rushing yards on six attempts.
“Our offensive line did a heck of a job pass-blocking, but that was a 180 from our run-blocking. They really bottled up Matt Lockard ” said Mantell. “There were some bright spots though, and we just have to continue to get better. People talk about building for next year already, but we still have seven games left in this season.”