By MIKE BLATT
---- — In a battle of backyard rivals on hot and humid night that featured a 30-minute lightning delay, visiting Tri-Central notched its first win of the young football season with a 39-13 victory over Taylor that was closer than the score indicated.
The Trojans evened their record at 1-1 while Taylor fell to 0-2, suffering its 18th consecutive loss. The TC win marked the Trojans’ fourth straight win in the series. Nevertheless, Taylor didn’t make it easy for TC.
Trailing 19-6 early in the third quarter, the Titans were very much in the game after Jordon Lazaro’s 43-yard fumble return set up Micheal Humphries’ 3-yard touchdown burst to make it 19-13 with 8:19 left.
But the Trojans, who held Taylor without a first down in the second half, answered when TC quarterback Cody Howell found Jade Pickett on a slant pass over the middle. Pickett turned on the after-burners for a 64-yard TD. Senior Garrett Kelley, who gained 98 yards on 14 carries, added a two-point conversion run to make it 27-13 with 3:40 left to play in the third.
The Trojans added a pair of fourth-quarter scores to account for the final tally. One TD came on Kelley’s four-yard dive early in the fourth period, and the final trip to paydirt came from Dillon Smith, who set up his one-yard scoring run with a 24-yard scamper on the previous play.
Tri-Central coach George Gilbert was glad to get the win.
“This was a good game,” he said. “Taylor never backed away from us. We never really took control until the end of the third quarter. We were up and down, but our backs really ran hard.”
Indeed, the Trojans finished with 256 rushing yards on 42 tries, and Howell completed 5 of 9 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
For Taylor, the highlight of the night was a 17-play, 62-yard drive that ate up more than eight minutes of the second period. The score came on a fourth-and-five at the 13 when Lazaro tossed a pass to junior tight end Dereck Rappuhn, who outfought Howell for the ball at the goal line. The score narrowed the gap to 13-6 with 2:36 remaining in the half.
Titan coach Eric Davis said, “Anytime you can have a 17-play drive, that’s good stuff. I don’t know that in 17 years [as a coach], I’ve been part of a 17-play drive to be quite honest with you. We’ve got to get to where every series is that consistent.”
But, TC answered less than a minute and a half later. On a first down at the Titan 45, Howell found Seth Blunck all alone at the 20 yard line. Blunck caught the pass and managed to reach the end zone before the Taylor defenders could recover to make it 19-6 at intermission.
The Trojans built their lead on their first two possessions on a pair of scores by halfback Cody Colbert. First, he capped an 11-play drive with a five-yard run up the middle. Bryce Dowell’s juggling 25-yard reception of a Howell pass was the key play.
On TC second offensive series, Colbert took an option pitchout 43 yards untouched, thanks to excellent blocking by the Trojans to make it 13-0.