FORT WAYNE — Fans eager to find out if Kokomo was up to the expectations of an improved 2006 had little time to wait for the answer.

The Kats pounced on host Carroll of Allen County with a flurry of overwhelming offense in the first half here Friday, scoring touchdowns on each of their first four possessions to post a 29-3 halftime lead en route to a 49-16 whipping of the Chargers.

The 49 points were the most in a season opener for Kokomo since beating East Chicago Central 49-20 in 1996. It was the Wildkats’ first season-opening win since 2000.

It marked the first win for Kokomo over Carroll in the two teams’ four meetings. Just two years ago on the same field, the Chargers pounded the Kats 48-0.

“Nobody would have thought this team could do this,” said coach Wayne Lance. “There’s always nay-sayers and ‘Oh, what’s the football team going to do.’ I’m just proud those kids bought into what we’re teaching them.

“I don’t think anybody but the people in the locker room expected this out of us. Hopefully we can keep this going and keep our focus and learn from the mistakes.”

Mistakes and penalties were just about the only things slowing Kokomo.

After an 80-yard scoring drive to begin the rout that relied on the throwing of quarterback Bryce Robinson, the Wildkats took to the ground.

Jarius Johnson was the workhorse. He carried the ball 18 times before halftime for 130 yards and two touchdowns, including a 57-yard dash through a gaping hole, midway through the second quarter.

Johnson ended the night with 173 yards and three TDs on 22 carries.

Justin Patterson was the big-play man. He hauled in a 69-yard pass from Robinson on third-and-26 that gave Kokomo a first-and-goal at the Chargers 4-yard line in the opening drive. Patterson came back later with a 56-yard touchdown run on the Kats’ second drive.

In the first half, Kokomo amassed 331 yards of offense on only 28 plays from scrimmage. The Wildkats finished with 406 yards rushing and 537 yards of total offense.

“A big offensive line makes up for a lot,” said Carroll coach Kirk Duncan. “They’re big and burly and we’re not. If you’ve got a line like that, coach Lance did the smart thing — just put [the ball] in behind them and let your fast guy pick where he wants to go. I’d like to have that luxury.”

Lance was tickled to death — and a little surprised — with his offensive line’s production.

“I really didn’t expect that from this group,” he said. “You know it’s in them, but you’ve got a couple guys going both ways, you’ve got a couple guys filling in at spots and I really didn’t know how they would respond. We never missed a beat.

“Coming into this game, if you had told me we were going to be able to run the ball like this, I could have believed it ... but, man, those kids were awesome. I was really proud of them.”

Not to be outdone, the defense played extremely well in the first half and maintained its intensity as the gap widened between the teams.

In that first half, the Chargers could muster just 71 yards of offense. They didn’t get a first down until a Kokomo penalty in the second period, and made only three more in their 46-yard scoring drive that ended with a 41-yard field goal.

Brock Butler and Chad Alexander were the leading tacklers with seven apiece. Joe Matel had five tackles, including one for loss.

Robinson finished his day with 131 yards 4 of 6 passing. He ran the ball three times for 63 yards and two TDs.

Robinson, Patterson, Butler and Alexander are juniors. Johnson is a sophomore.

“We have a lot of young kids in certain places and to really do what we did and be that successful, I’m extremely proud,” Lance said. “There were some rough edges, but this is a first [for our program]. Our kids bought into the game plan. They worked their tails off in the offseason and I couldn’t be prouder.”

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