Tuscola’s football team returned to action after a two-week hiatus due to Covid and went to work immediately pounding out a road win over a good 5-2 Warrensburg-Latham squad. Coach Andy Romine’s squad leaned on a stingy defense and a clock-eating run first punishing offensive attack that pounded out 17 first downs en-route to 309 yards, including 296 yards on the ground.
That’s fourteen more than they allowed the Cardinals to scratch out. The Warriors defense limited their hosts to just three first downs and one of those came by penalty, which was the only one they allowed in the first half. The defensive front anchored up front by Ben Hornaday, John Claxon, Haven Hatfield and Chris Boyd joined with linebackers Tyson Macaulay, Jordan Sanchez, Pierce and Armstrong allowed just 23 yards of offense before the band took the field at the break.
The Warriors kicked off to open the game, forced a quick three and out and took over the ball on their own 35 yard line after a punt and began the ground assault driving the ball to the Cardinals five on twelve straight run plays. They came up just short, stopping at the one on a fourth and goal. That however turned in to points two plays later when Hornaday exploded through the line tackling the Cardinals ball carrier for a four yard loss in the end-zone for a safety and a 2-0 lead
That in turn led to Tuscola’s second possession, a four-play scoring drive capped off by a 36 yard touchdown run by Armstrong. Keller Beachy was good on the point after pushing the lead to 9-0 Warriors. Armstrong carried the ball 35 times in the game for 19 yards and a touchdown.
Tuscola drove deep into Cardinal territory two more times but came up short before a blocked punt set up Warrensburg’s first score. The home team took over at the 22 yard line, ran three plays, gained just three yards and settled for a field goal as the clock struck zero to end the second stanza making it 9-3 Warriors at the half.
Tuscola drove the ball between the twenties twice in the third but came up empty before disaster struck again on a Warrior punt. This time it was a high snap that sailed over Macaulay’s head and was returned to the 23 yard, breathing life into the home crowd. Once more the defense stood strong and turned them over on the first play from scrimmage when a host of Warriors forced the ball out and senior safety Caden Baer recovered it.
Thirteen plays and a fourth and five conversion later culminated in a Pierce two-yard scoring run making it 15-3 Warriors with 4:43 left in the game. The senior running back was just short of the century mark gaining 97 yards on 17 rushes.
“Our effort across the board was outstanding,” stated the coach. “I can’t ask for more, after being off for 11 days without practice they responded and beat a good team. Patrick and Peyton ran the ball hard and were just as strong on defense.
Baer and his buddies in the defensive backfield, Eric Badgett, Ian Buchanan, Krish Patel and Hunter Branca shut the door on a late passing attack. Baer picked off the final ball allowing Romine’s squad to kneel it out to end the game. Warrensburg came up empty in the passing game connecting on 0 of 7 attempts and gained just 66 yards of offense on the night.
The time consuming run game and the stingy defense limited the Cardinals to just 41 plays from scrimmage while the Warriors snapped it 61 times. “We are what we are,” stated Romine. “We aren’t scoring like we have the past few years but we are really good up front and when we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot we can move the ball and control the clock. The defense came up big tonight.” Sanchez led the way from his inside backer position collecting seven tackles, including five solos. Hatfield was next up with six stops while Pierce and Armstrong garnered three tackles each. Hornaday, Buchanan and Baer found their way to three tackles each.