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“It was one of those games that it didn’t seem like we ever got into the flow of it,” Highland coach Chad Carpenter said. “We knew coming in that their kids were really scrappy and they played extremely hard and we preached that to our guys all week.”
Highland’s hot start came on defense, where they limited Danville to a 3-and-out and then Brock Veley had a massive return on the punt to set up the Scots at the Blue Devil 15. Four plays later, Tate Tobin converted a 3-yard run for the score and he also crossed the goal line for the 2-point conversion. Both of his first scores came with the stretch of the ball over the line.
Two plays into the next drive, Tobin made a contribution on the defense, forcing a fumble that set up Highland with another short field. This drive took six plays and 30 yards, but Tobin ended the drive on a 1-yard run for a score, giving Highland a 14-0 lead with 5:03 left in the first.
Danville forced its own turnover early in the second quarter and turned it into points. Eight plays into the drive, Dalton David found the end zone after a bobbled snap to cut the lead to 14-7 with 6:40 to go before intermission. Danville continued to build its momentum with a big goalline stand. Highland had four plays from inside the 4-yard line and the Blue Devils kept them out of the end zone, forcing a turnover on downs.
The home team got a first down on the next drive, but had to punt and a shanked kick set up Highland with great field position again, this time on the 19.
“Momentum obviously shifts right there,” Danville coach Ed Honabarger said. “Our kids kept battling, we just have to create more breaks for ourself. There’s those little things that we can’t get over the hump on.”
In three plays, Highland scored six on a 9-yard pass from Ian Taylor to Veley. The score was set at 20-7, which was the score when both teams went to the locker room.
Highland received the ball in the second half and put together several chunk plays, capped off by a 21-yard run by Brody Matthews for a score and Taylor converted the 2point conversion on the ground, putting the Scots ahead 28-7. Another bad Danville punt on its next drive gave the ball to Highland in enemy territory and Tobin made the Blue Devils pay one more time, scoring from 6 yards out and Matthews toted the rock for the 2-point conversion, putting the visitors ahead 36-7 with 3:01 to go in the third.
“Our offense was moving the ball well the whole second half and I think that really carried us,” Tobin said. “But, Danville got some things going with the run game, though.”
Danville’s Chris Greenawalt found an extra gear late in the third quarter. He had a bruising 53-yard run and capped off the drive with a score, cutting the lead to 36-14. The Blue Devils forced another fumble and came up with the recovery. Greenawalt, who exited the game later due to injury, put together another solid touchdown run, this one for 71 yards. The PAT was blocked, setting the score at 36-20.
“In the third quarter and the fourth quarter, I thought we did pretty well offensively,” Honabarger said. “Both teams were hitting really hard and we were taking a lot out of each other. They can just bring those array of backs.”
Highland did a good job of spreading the ball around with their backs. After the Danville score, Highland pieced together a 10-play, 62yard drive, ending in a 2-yard run by Matthews for six. Taylor had another 2-point run, giving Highland a 44-20 advantage with 6:53 to go. After a bad snap on a Danville punt set up the Scots at the 4, Jon Jensen carried the ball into the end zone, putting the visitors ahead 50-20.
Danville was not entirely done. On their last drive of the game, Dalton connected with Alex Holt for two receptions, one for 24 yards and the other for 15, with the latter going for a score. That late score cut the lead to 50-27, but there wasn’t enough time for Danville to continue the rally, giving Highland the win.
Taylor went 8 of 10 for the Scots for 91 yards and a score to Veley, who finished with four receptions for 23 yards. Kadin Johnson had one haul on the night for 41 yards. The Scots’ bread and butter came on the ground, where Matthews finished with 110 yards and two scores on 18 carries, while Tobin added another 55 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. Veley and Jack Weaver combined for 58 yards on 10 carries.
For the Blue Devils, David was 6 of 8 for 61 yards and a score to Holt, who had two receptions for 39 yards. Greenawalt got it done on the ground, finishing with 178 yards and two scores on 14 carries.
Highland (3-1, 1-0) heads back to Sparta next week to host Centerburg, while Danville (0-4, 0-1) hits on the road against Northmor. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.