CENTERBURG — The defense of the Centerburg Trojans (3-1, 1-0 KMAC) struck early and often, racking up six turnovers and four sacks to stop the visiting Cardington-Lincoln Pirates (0-4, 0-1 KMAC), 35-7, in the Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference season opener for both teams Friday.
The fired-up Trojans’ defense grabbed three of their turnovers in the opening quarter, while their offense sputtered early. Centerburg defensive back Gavin Wilson came up with a fumble to stop the Pirates’ first drive of the game. Teammate Andrew Waddell intercepted Cardington quarterback Nate Hickman (8-for-16, 2 INT, 1 TD), midway through the period, stopping another drive.
The Trojans got on the board after defensive back Preston Barber got hold of another Cardington fumble to give Centerburg the ball at its own 44-yard line with 2:39 left in the first quarter. The Trojans capitalized a few plays later when quarterback John Sheasby hit teammate John Wharton with a 42-yard touchdown pass. It was one of only two passes that Sheasby completed in the game — both to Wharton for a total of 52 yards.
“We really played well as a team,” Schmitt said. “We communicated well. We prepared very well all week, so we knew what they were going to run out of every formation. Everyone ran to the ball.”
The Pirates’ scored near the end of the half on a Hickman pass to Trey Brininger, who had missed a couple of games due to injury. His score cut the Trojan’s lead to 14-7. Despite amassing 432 total yards as a team (including 380 rushing), that was the only score the Pirates could manage to put on the board in the game.
“The last two weeks, our defense has played really well,” Centerburg coach Andy Collela said. “It’s all about effort and getting to the football. When you have those two things, you’re going to create turnovers.”
Late in the third quarter, the Trojans’ offense kicked it into high gear. They got the ball on their own 1-yard line and marched it 99 yards on seven plays, and scored on a 33-yard run by Sheasby.
The Trojans struck right back in the fourth quarter, starting with the ball on their own 21 and getting a 48-yard run by Trey Kendrick to set up a 31-yard touchdown gallop by Schmitt. That put the Trojan lead at 28-7. The Trojans ran for only 128 yards against Cardington.
Late in the game, Wilson intercepted a Hickman pass and ran it back to the Pirates’ 49. That set up the Trojans’ final score, when Jarred Rings rumbled 49yards for a touchdown.
Next Friday, the Trojans visit backyard rival Highland in a key KMAC matchup. In the meantime, Cardington will host league-leading East Knox. Kickoff time for both games will be 7 p.m.