Anna opened the 2008 high school football season Friday in impressive fashion by beating Sidney Lehman Catholic 28-21 in a match
up of likely playoff teams at Piqua High School’s Alexander Stadium.
PIQUA—The Anna Rockets opened up the 2008 high school football season Friday night in impressive fashion by beating Sidney Lehman 28-21 in a match up of likely playoff teams at Piqua High School’s Alexander Stadium.
Seldom are opening games as interesting–let alone as meaningful–as this one was. It had the air of a playoff game and it was played like one.
“It was a great game,” Rocket head coach, Bryan Rioch said. “With no disrespect intended, the game was a lot closer then it should have been because Anna’s head coach has his (impossible anatomical act deleted) and tried to throw the ball instead of running it.
“You just go ahead and print that. Say that it’s my fault. It’s all on me. Everyone will know it is true. My kids overcame it all. They are so good.”
Lehman got on the scoreboard first at 6:38 of the first quarter when senior quarterback Kameron Barton found Max Cartwright in the right corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.
The Rockets responded with a 25-yard pass from Wesley Hansucker to sophomore running back Don Stewart with 3:45 left in the first quarter. Lehman immediately retaliated with a 7-play, 59-yard drive of their own–culminating in a 1-yard touchdown plunge courtesy of Caleb Goins.
Hansucker was 12-18 for 146 yards passing for the game. Stewart contributed 55 yards rushing, 111 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
“We came out and we fought hard,” the junior quarterback said over the screaming post game throng. “They (Lehman) played hard, too. But, I really think that the turnovers and the kickoff return hurt them badly.”
Barton threw for 75 yards (on 7-10 passing) and Stewart chipped in 105 yards of total offense (83 rushing, 2 TD’s).
Kendrick Wright returned the ensuing kickoff 82-yards to tie the score again at 14-14.
The Cavaliers Caleb Goins scored a 1-yard touchdown on counter action out of a split backfield with 8:04 left in the third quarter to re-establish their tenuous one touchdown margin.
Hansucker hit Stewart in the back of the end zone to tie the game and then Stewart—escorted by beautiful blocking courtesy of Wright and second-team all-Ohio lineman, Eric Neicamp—effectively ended this early season drama with an Anna 3-yard trap play touchdown.
Anna had 274 yards of total offense (128 rushing) to 223 for the home team (148 rushing).
“It was a tough loss for the team and the fans,” Lehman head coach Richard Roll lamented. “Anna came out in the second half and established their running game. On the other hand we never got going on offense in the second half.
“In the end, football is a pretty simple game.”
The Rockets and the Cavaliers ran double-winged offenses (both out of the shotgun and with the quarterback under center) all night. The also both ran out of 4-3 defenses except that Anna played a cover-four zone and Lehman played a mixture of man-to-man and cover-three.
Anna opens MAC play next week when they host Waynesfield-Goshen.
Meanwhile, Lehman travels to West Milton to play the Bulldogs. Last year’s triumphant 8-2 seasoan started with heartbreaking loses to both the M-U and the Rockets. Deja vu isn’t really Coach Roll’s thing, so he and his Cavaliers are hoping for much different results this time around the block.
“We had a big finish last year,” Roll laughed. “Asking the kids to win the last eight games of the season to make the playoffs again this year is asking a lot. Milton-Union is good. We have our work cut out for us.”
Anna’s modus operandi is to run the ball hard in the first half and then run even harder in the second. The Cavaliers were aware of that and moved their free safety up into the ‘box’ for run support after halftime, but it didn’t do them any good.
“Yeah, we knew it was coming,” Roll said. “We’re seriously disappointed, but we’re not disappointed in the kids effort. They never quit and they showed that by being competitive late into this game.
“They could have let them score again at the end of the game, but they didn’t do that. We’re proud of our kids.”
It would be hard to overstate just how good Anna’s blocking was–on many occasions–in this contest. Wright, in particular, demonstrated the kind of blocking ability that could draw serious interest from college recruiters.
Write it down: Wide receivers who consistently declete unsuspecting opponents downfield are worth their weight in gold.
“He (Wright) is a very good blocker,” Rioch said. “He’s an 11.1 100-meter man, too. He’s the best athlete at our school. He can high jump 6-foot-2. He can run and he is starting to understand what he is being asked to do.”
Who would know good blocking better than a quarterback?
“He (Wright) is really good, but he isn’t the only good blocker we have.” an appreicative Hansucker said. “Justin Carr, Eric Neikamp, Alex Hohlbein, Joey Bell, Zach Christman, and Marcus Schemmel kept me clean all night.
“It makes my job not only easier, but possible. Good offensive results start with good blocking.”
Of course, the world would like to know why, exactly, would anyone join the unbelievably competitive MAC on purpose—as Anna did three years ago.
“We were getting in the playoffs (before joining the MAC), but we were always one and done,” Rioch laughed. “Our schedule and our season weren’t conducive to getting us playoff ready. We tried to make some interesting things happen in the CCC (Cross County Conference) but they just didn’t work out.
“We got an invitation to join the MAC and we took it. You know what the story was tonight? I have 83 kids and he has 42 kids. It’s hot. It’s humid.
“They are a good team.”