Russiaville — With a chance to turn the Mid-Indiana Conference football standings on its ear Friday night, Western ran into a formidable opponent in Mother Nature.
With standing water visible on the turf between the hash marks and a steady rain throughout the Panthers’ showdown with Class 3A No. 4-ranked Hamilton Heights, a slippery track and slippery football led to four first-half fumbles and three turnovers for Western.
Those turnovers helped Heights sprint to a 26-0 lead by the half, and the Panthers never recovered in a 33-0 loss to the Huskies on senior night.
“The weather definitely hurt,” Western coach Nate Andrews said. “Some people were saying that it was going to help us. You never know when you have a group of kids, a group of young people. But, we definitely did not get off on the right foot. And, because of that we could never regain our momentum.”
Western suffered its first shutout loss since a 57-0 loss to Frankfort in Week 1 of the 2001 season.
After Heights (7-1, 6-0 MIC) scored on the game’s third play from scrimmage on a 55-yard run from Conner Faulkner, Western put together its best drive of the night, marching 59 yards in eight plays down to the Heights 17-yard line, but could not connect on a field goal attempt.
The Panthers (4-4, 4-2) forced a three-and-out on Heights’ next possession but fumbled the ball away two plays later. Western fumbled away two of its next three possessions. Those fumbles sandwiched a bad long snap on a punt which set Heights up deep in Panther territory.
The Huskies capitalized with a pair of touchdown runs from Faulkner in that stretch, while Grant Weatherford’s 50-yard punt return for a touchdown with 5:44 left in the first half put Heights up 26-0.
Faulkner scored his fourth TD of the night on a four-yard run to cap the Huskies’ first drive of the second half. The junior finished the night with 165 yards and four TDs on 19 carries.