By Ernie Smothers
(Photos courtesy Jason Bynum)
HUNTINGDON (August 22) As the heat index soared to 103 degrees at Paul Ward Stadium, the Huntingdon Mustangs unleashed an offensive firestorm to rout Obion County, 49-7.
All seven Huntingdon touchdowns were scored by freshmen or sophomores.
Huntingdon amassed 342 yards on 39 rushes compared to O.C.’s 74 yards on 29 totes.
Propelled by intense upfront blocking by Alex Beal, Chase Jones, Hunter Turner, Michael Pritchard and Trevor Pritchard, Huntingdon’s offensive juggernaut was led by sophomore quarterback Dylan Johnson (85 yards rushing, 21-yard touchdown rush, 15-yard scoring strike to Zach Dodson), Ben Clifft (96-yard kickoff return for touchdown, 15-yard rushing touchdown), Dodson (three-yard rushing score), freshman sensation Cade Pearson (four-yard scoring burst) and inside power rushing of Triston Norwood (11-yard touchdown scamper) and Brandon Baker.
Huntingdon was led defensively by the tackling of Kenneth Pruett, Jonah Davis, Michael Arnhold, Saddarius Hutcherson, Trey Taylor, Rocky Bolen and Pearson.
Mustang sophomore Clifft fumbled the opening kickoff before returning the ball to the Huntingdon 25. Utilizing consecutive 12-yard gains by Norwood and Baker, the Mustangs marched to midfield. Norwood raced left side for a five-yard tote before Johnson bootlegged for a first down at the 30 and followed with a keeper to nose the ball just inside the Rebel red zone. Digging deep, Obion County’s Mark Jackson, Bryce Warner and Jonah Pittman slowed the Mustang advance, forcing Huntingdon to gamble on fourth and five at the 15. Taking the shotgun snap, Johnson fired a scoring arc to Zach Dodson leftside. Mustang kicker Jayden Williams capped the impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive by splitting the uprights as Huntingdon led 7-0 at the 7:07 mark of the first canto.
Unable to gain a first down of their initial offensive possession, O.C. punted away with Mustang Keeton Bailey returning Blake Berner’s bouncing boot to the Rebel 40.
Baker powered to the 28 and Johnson followed with a first down dash to the 24. Facing third and seven, Johnson raced left side for a fresh set of downs at the Rebel 10. At the 1:35 mark of the first canto, Norwood jetted to paydirt and Williams added the PAT boot as Huntingdon widened their lead to 14-0.
Battling back, O.C. utilized the rushing of Butler and Berner to net a first down at their 37 as time expired in the first frame.
Slowed by the tackling of Hutcherson and Davis, O.C. punted on fourth and 12 as Berner’s impressive kick was downed at the Mustang 4.
Huddling up in the shadow of their own goal post, Huntingdon responded with a methodical, 11-play scoring drive fueled by the rushing of Baker, Norwood and Dodson. At the 6:37 mark of the second quarter, Dodson followed Beal’s excellent lead block to score from three yards out. Williams PAT kick was true as Huntingdon increased their lead, 21-0.
Heavy-hitter Arnhold alertly recovered a Rebel fumble at the O.C. 21 to set up Huntingdon’s next score. On the ensuing play, Johnson took the snap and snaked leftside behind solid blocking. Hit hard at the three, the sophomore signal caller stretched the pigskin across the plane to score. Williams PAT boot was perfect as Huntingdon led 28-0 at the 4:52 mark of the second clip.
Huntingdon added an additional score with 51 seconds remaining in the first half as sophomore speed merchant Clifft took the double reverse and jetted up the middle through center Chase Jones’ blocking gap. Williams added the PAT kick as Huntingdon led O.C. at the half, 35-0.
As the clock ran non-stop via 35-point mercy rule in the second half, O.C. utilized methodical rushing by Butler and Berner to grind 7:37 seconds off the clock to set up Warner’s short scoring rush and temporarily stop the running clock.
14 seconds later, the mercy rule was again invoked as Huntingdon’s Clifft gathered the O.C. kickoff at the four and flew 96 yards to paydirt. Williams added the PAT as Huntingdon stretched their lead to 42-7.
Switching to reserves for the final canto, Huntingdon moved the ball impressively via the rushing of Tyrese Mebane, Marvaughn McClerkin and Dylan Gorth. Highlighting the Mustangs final scoring drive, quarterback Pearson ran over numerous O.C. starters for a 20-yard gain before capping the 11-play, 64-yard drive by dragging defenders four yards to score. Orry Hodo added the PAT boot as Huntingdon defeated O.C., 49-7.
Huntingdon travels to Martin this Friday night for a non-district clash against a powerful Charger squad that jolted Dresden the previous night, 45-18.
Kickoff at UT-Martin’s Skyhawk Stadium is 7:30 p.m.