By CHRIS GARNER
Taylor’s football team went back to the basics to end a three-game losing skid on senior night Friday, and it was senior running backs Robvis Stamp, Shawn Petty and Michael Williams that led the Titans to a 41-6 throttling of visiting Eastern.
Stamp ran for 121 yards rushing on 17 carries as Taylor rolled up 257 yards on the ground. Petty had six rushes for 63 yards and Williams scored two rushing touchdowns in the second half.
The 41 points was the Titans’ largest point production this season and came on the heels of being held to 13, 0 and 8 points in their last three games.
Taylor evened its season mark at 4-4 and improved to 2-4 in the Mid-Indiana Conference.
“We made the decision that we knew we had good running backs,” said Taylor coach Josh Ousley. “We thought we could run the football and we felt like we could come out here and really grind the game out.
“I never thought we’d score as many points as we did but we played really well on offense [Friday] night.”
Things got off to a rocky start for the Titans as quarterback Jake Leicht mishandled the first handoff of the ballgame. That allowed the Comets to invade Taylor territory as far as the 25-yard line before a recurring theme for them — penalties — halted the drive.
Once Taylor got going it drove 89 yards in 11 plays to go on top for good at the 3:53 mark of the first period on Leicht’s six-yard scramble into the end zone.
Key to the drive were a 33-yard run by Petty to the Eastern 18-yard line and a 12-yard sprint by Stamp to the 6.
Leicht came back one possession later to hit Zsan Black with a 17-yard TD pass into the left corner of the end zone. Leicht finished with 106 yards on 5 of 6 passing with no interceptions.
“Jake played well and really made some good decisions,” Ousley said. “We’ve been working with him about making decisions — if you’ve got a wide-open running lane, get in it, and if you’ve got a throwing lane, throw the ball.”
The Comets, now 0-8 and mired in a 19-game losing streak, made several trips across midfield only to see their drives stalled by penalties or turnovers.
Late in the first half Eastern was as far as the Taylor 20 before a holding penalty drove the Comets back. The half ended on two sacks by the Titan defense.
Eastern drove to the Taylor 22 to start the second half on solid runs by Drew Smith and Joel Hoover plus a face-mask penalty. That march halted when quarterback Jonathan Keith was picked off by Teddy Nolley at the 10 and the interception was returned to the Eastern 32.
After Williams scored the first of his two touchdowns on a three-yard run to give the Titans a 28-0 lead, Eastern’s Tyler Harnish returned the kickoff 73 yards to the Taylor 14. Again, after an unnecessary roughness call on the Comets, Keith was sacked by Stamp on fourth-and-15 from the 19.
Eastern, which had only three fewer first downs than the Titans, finished with 12 penalties for 120 yards and two turnovers on interceptions. Eastern coach Josh Edwards called his team’s effort “disheartening.”
“Earlier in the year we were getting five or less [penalties] a game,” he said. “It’s like now we’ve gone downhill with our focus, and it’s my job to get things straightened out as a team. We have to figure out what’s going to make these guys focus and not make silly mistakes.
“We are not good enough to make those mental mistakes. If we’re going to win a football game it’s got to be clean and perfect. We didn’t do that [Friday], so we deserve the loss.”
Cale Roark, who had six carries in the fourth quarter and the lone touchdown on the final play of the game for Eastern, wound up leading the Comets with 56 yards on the ground.
“Those kids from Eastern, they want to win and they’re playing like they want to win,” Ousley said. “Our offensive line played great. [Eastern] plays a 3-5 defense and we play a 3-5 defense and we know how hard it is to pick up all those blitzes and everything. I was really pleased with our offensive line play.”