SHARPSVILLE — It was not exactly what you would call perfection, but the end result easily overshadowed the mishaps here Friday night as Tri-Central’s football team bashed Hoosier Heartland Conference foe Clinton Central 35-0.
For coach George Gilbert’s Trojans, it was the their fifth straight win, upped their overall record to 5-1 and kept their conference slate perfect at 3-0. TC and Sheridan share the HHC lead.
The Trojan defense totally dominated the Bulldogs to the tune of 73 total yards — 18 yards on 16 rushing attempts and 55 yards via the pass, 40 of those passing yards coming on a third-and-nine halfback pass maneuver early in the third period.
The Bulldogs, now 0-6 overall and 0-2 in the HHC, didn’t manage a single first down in the first two quarters when their total offensive output amounted to 11 yards rushing in 11 attempts and their passing game totaled a minus-four yards on 2-of-7 pitching with two intercepts.
Gilbert remarked afterward: “We had 445 yards total offense in spite of three fumbles, two interceptions and 70 yards in penalties. But it was truly a team victory; everybody had big plays and played well and we had nine guys make catches in our passing game. We had 171 yards in passing the first half, but had 151 yards rushing in tbe second half when we went to our regular offense.”
Offensive coordinator Shane Arnold spoke of a switch in strategy with: “Clinton Central was tough inside, so we went to the pass. Then when they took away the outside we went with the run.”
Following a scoreless first quarter when TC drove clear to the CC 10 only to fumble, the Trojans turned that mishap into a turnaround when Bryce Dowell batted a Bulldog pass into the air and Cody Howell picked it off at the one and stepped into the end zone with 6:42 left in the first half.
Some 3:12 later Howell faked a dive play and hit Garrett Kelley on a middle screen pass that went for 79 yards, and Tri-Central settled for a 14-0 halftime command.
The lead blossomed to 21-0 halfway through the third quarter when Dillon Smith went the middle on a quick opener, and the spread grew to 28-0 early in the fourth when Howell hit Dowell over the middle for a 20-yard payoff.
The final Trojan blow came with 4:18 left in the contest when Howell threw his third touchdown pass, a 10-yard toss to Colten Leininger.
Trojan pass catchers were everywhere with Jade Pickett, Dowell, Seth Blunck, Leininger, Smith, Kelley, Colbert and Cale Hindman finding daylight. But the defense, led by Lake Baumiller, Darius Stanley and Blunck, was more than Clinton Central could handle.