By Lenny Sementi
Head football coach Andy Romine looked to his big boys up front to grind out a big win over a good Warrensburg Lathem squad. Mike Calderon and Hans Goodmann led the way as the two seniors on the offensive line joined with juniors Chase Jones and Haven Hatfield along with sophomore Chris Boyd. They paved the way for 415-yards of offense, including 50 rushes for 353 yards.
Senior running back Grant Hardwick toted the rock 28 times for 241 yards and also grabbed a pair of Payton Armstrong passes for 14 more yards. Armstrong did his share of the damage as well going over the century mark with 109 yards on the ground on 21 attempts. He was solid through the air completing eight of 11 passes for 68-yards.
“The guys up front kept their feet driving,” stated the coach. “We missed some assignments and some penalties again stalled some drives but the effort on the line was outstanding. We haven’t had a guy gain as many yards as Grant did tonight in a lot of years, he had a great night running the ball.”
The Warriors posted just five first downs in the first 24 minutes of action and then upped the ante after the break exploding for 12 more in the final two frames, including two big third down pass completions to Robert Fancher. Fancher led all Warriors hauling in four of Armstrong’s missiles for 41 yards. Nate Koester had the final grab for a six-yard gain.
Warrensburg drew first blood taking advantage of a blown coverage on a second long completion of a go route for a 50-yard touchdown and then punched in a two point coverage making it 8-0 Cardinals. Tuscola took the next drive just over 70 yards to pay dirt on a 12-play drive culminating with a one-yard plunge by Armstrong and following the point after by Aiden Beachy pulled to within one 8-7 with four minutes left on the clock and that’s where it would stay until the break.
Romine’s crew opened the third with a four and a half minute nine-play drive to the Cardinals three that ended with a 21-yard field goal by Beachy giving Tuscola its first lead of the game 10-8 with seven minutes and 31 seconds left in the stanza. Koester came up big with a pair of knockdowns on Cardinals passes on ensuing drives one on a big fourth down play and one on a third and long forcing them to punt. Ten plays later Hardwick scampered 23 yards for a score increasing the lead to 16-8.
Another fourth down stop by the Warriors, their third of the game led to a 35-yard field goal by Beachy putting Tuscola up by two scores with two minutes and 29 seconds left in the game. A little over a minute later the Cardinals made it interesting capping a 65-yard drive with a 13-yard TD pass cutting it to 19-16. Kick return coach Conner Plotner trotted out his hands and Koester all but sealed the deal with the onside recovery. A few Hardwick runs, one more first down and a few Armstrong knees ended moving the Warriors to 2-2 on the year.
“We haven’t won many games around here without scoring at least 20 points and none during my tenure as head coach so this is a big one,” Romine commented. “Beachy and our special teams were a necessity for us tonight, it tested our ability to close out a game.”