By GENE F. CONARD KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — FRANKFORT — It took a few maneuvers to get in sync. But once Tri-Central got its offensive act together, Clinton Prairie’s seriously outmanned Gophers were in a game they could ill afford to play — catch up.
The Trojans piled up 314 yards rushing in 49 attempts (6.4 average), added 52 yards on four pass completions in 10 tries, and got touchdowns from seven different players to deal the Gophers a 54-0 thrashing Friday night.
TC improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the Hoosier Heartland Conference.
The 28-man Clinton Prairie squad involving a mere four seniors and eight juniors simply had no offensive answer to a Trojan defense that had 11 tackles for loss for 54 total yards.
For the game, Prairie managed just 80 yards in 39 rushes, and the bulk of that came in the waning stages of the contest. Overall, Prairie had just 118 total yards in 40 plays. The Gophers were also forced to punt seven times and suffered nine penalties totaling 82 yards.
“It was great that we got a lot of kids into the game, and everybody worked hard the entire game,” TC coach George Gilbert said. “I was disappointed in the first half in that we threw the ball instead of establishing our ground game.
“What we want to do is set up the passing game with the run. And at the start we were just shooting from the hip,” he added.
TC got on the board midway through the first period when Smith ran seven yards for a score.Cody Howell ran two yards for a score in second period; Keith Busch returned a punt 66 yards to make it 22-0 and Bryce Dowell caught a 14-yard pass from Howell to up it to 29-0 at the half.
Garrett Kelley scored on runs of 14 and six yards in third period to push it to 42-0, and Colten Leininger went seven yards for a TD to make it 48-0 with 3:00 left in the game. Davee Haulcy went nine yards for the final Trojan tally to write the finish.
Riley Smeltzer, Kelley and Lake Baumiller had 10 tackles each for TC and Darius Stanley had seven. Dowell disrupted a lot of Gopher plays with his penetration.
The Gophers suffered a setback when junior running back Nik Royer went down early in the first quarter. He laid on the field from some 30 minutes while being attended by trainers and doctors for what was later diagnosed for a severe back strain. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, and Gopher coach Shawn Wines later learned he was up and walking with no serious injuries.