It was no doubt an impressive offensive display, just one that Kokomo’s football team would rather forget.
Following three straight weeks on the road, home turf didn’t seem so sweet to the Wildkats on Friday night as Class 6A No. 4-ranked Lafayette Jeff lit up the scoreboard like a fireworks display at Walter Cross Field, scoring early and often in a 55-3 runaway.
Behind junior quarterback Maximus Grimes and a punishing ground game, the visiting Bronchos scored on six of their seven first-half possessions on the way to a 41-0 halftime lead to set a running clock in motion for the second half.
It was the 21st straight North Central Conference win for the Bronchos, which improved to 5-0 on the season and 3-0 in conference play. They are chasing an NCC three-peat.
“They’re very fast,” Kokomo coach Richard Benberry said. “They play simple. They play fast. And they play to win. That’s what I appreciate about watching Jeff.”
The loss dropped Kokomo to 0-5 and 0-3 in the NCC. It’s certainly not unfamiliar ground for the Kats, who also started off last season 0-5 before winning their last four games of the regular season as well as an opening-round game in sectional play.
“The guys understand that,” Benberry said. “They know. A lot of them were here last time. This is the point where you start leading up to sectionals. As long as the guys understand that it starts now, it’s a fresh start, the second season starts now, they just need to understand that.”
Jeff finished the game with 455 yards of total offense, with Grimes completing 15 of 23 passes for 197 yards. Marquis Munoz finished with 88 yards and a pair of scores on six carries to lead a ground attack that finished with 197 yards. Freshman QB Asa Koeppen completed 3 of 5 passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
In the first half alone, the Bronchos picked up 327 yards on offense — 162 on the ground and 165 courtesy of Grimes’ impressive arm. He completed 11 of 18 passes over the first two quarters, including a 29-yard TD pass to Anthony Fancher as Jeff scored in a multitude of ways. The Bronchos also had four rushing scores along with J.J. Lee’s 44-yard fumble recovery to paydirt to account for the halftime advantage.
The Kats barely avoided being shut out for the first time this season as Cole Boruff booted a 29-yard field goal with 6:53 to play.
When the Kats did show promise in early drives, they stalled out. On the Kats’ second drive, they faced first and goal at the Jeff seven before losing 20 yards on the next three downs and missing a 37-yard field goal attempt. In the second quarter, a botched Broncho punt set up the Kats on the Jeff 24 but Kokomo again couldn’t convert, turning the ball over on a fourth-and-20 incomplete pass.
“We’ve got to focus on the small things,” Benberry said. “Where can we find our spot to attack? We found a few spots to attack well. We just couldn’t sustain.”
The running game was again problematic for Kokomo. Plez Lawrence was the Kats’ leading rusher with 34 yards on 10 carries. Kokomo finished with nine total yards rushing on 27 carries.
“We’ve got to keep pressing those linemen,” Benberry said. “You’ve got to inflict your will. You just can’t let them do what they want to do. You’ve got to make them do what you want to do.”
Andres Begne completed 8 of 16 passes with one interception for the Kats, finishing with 106 yards.
Despite the lopsided loss, Benberry saw bright spots from his squad.
“Our guys played fast and they played efficient,” Benberry said. “I was very impressed with that. One of the bright spots is we stayed together. We did not bow our heads. Even though it was a 52-point differential, we didn’t bow our heads. We’re still Kokomo. We’re still grinders. We’ve got to keep playing like that.”