Tuscola’s football team welcomed the rain this past Friday evening, Sept. 23, and welcomed back a pair of players in a bounce-back game. They upended the 7th-ranked Central A&M Raiders 13-0 in a defensive slugfest. Coach Romine’s squad embraced the elements looking to their ground game and a stingy defense to move to 4-1 on the season.
“The coaching staff pushed hard this past week in practice, after the disappointing loss,” stated Romine. “Shelbyville is a good team but we didn’t play our best mentally, so we pushed the guys this week and they responded with a big win over a good team.”
The black and gold got an extra boost thanks to a pair of seniors returning to the gridiron after setting out with injuries. Ben Hornaday and John Claxon are stalwarts on both offense and defense for the Warriors and both missed the Shelbyville game but returned to action against A&M. Hornaday, who rushed for over 100 yards in the first three games of the season came didn’t miss a beat eclipsing the century mark for the fourth time, gaining 116 yards on 17 carries running behind Claxon, Chris Boyd, Grant Kauffman, Zach Patterson and Sam Spencer.
The Warriors forced a three and out to open the rain-soaked contest and drove the length of the field but came up short on the 14-play drive. They ventured deep into Raider territory a few more times in the first half only to come away scoreless. Parker James came up late in the second quarter with a touchdown-saving tackle as the two CIC heavyweights traded defensive punches while entering the break knotted at 0’s.
“We moved the ball the whole first half and had nothing to show for it,” Romine commented. “We need to punch those in, we left some points off the board.”
After trading possessions, Tuscola went to work capping a 5-play drive with a 4-yard scoring plunge by Nate Thomason making it 6–0 Warriors. Keller Beachy connected on the point after an attempt, moving it to 7–0 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. A&M fired back with a long drive of their own, utilizing 12-plays to set up a first and goal from the 5-yard line early in the final stanza. Jordan Sanchez, Hornaday and Claxon came up big on a first down stop, then Boyd, Hunter Branca and Tristan Gadomski loomed large on a stop on the goal line on second and third before Thomason plugged a hole on fourth and one to turn back the Raiders.
Eleven plays and 99 yards later, the boys in black put another six on the board. Thanks to a 35-yard scoring strike from Jordan Quinn to Thomason made it 13–0 with a little over 5 minutes left in the game. Quinn was good on 6 of 10 through the air for 48-yards and a score. He did his share of damage on the ground gaining 82 yards on 22 carries.
Three straight quarterback pressures forced a three and out. Thomason pinned the Raiders deep with a booming punt after a stalled Tuscola drive. That set up one more final stand by the Warriors’ defense and put a bow on the shutout. The senior punter launched it into the air three times in the contest, averaging just over 40 yards a strike.
Hornaday led the charge in his return to the nose guard spot tallying 12 tackles. Nate Thomason was next in line, collecting a team-best four solo tackles on his way to eight tackles, while his fellow inside linebacker Sanchez corralled seven Raiders. Boyd, Gadomski, Quinn, Claxon and Cain all chipped in six stops apiece. Austin Cummings was one back with five stops. Gadomski, Cain, Claxon and Hornaday all added a sack to the stat sheet.