In a battle between first-year head coaches at their respective alma maters, coach Blake Allen and the Barnesville Shamrocks got the best of coach Dirk Gadd and the Newcomerstown Trojans by a final score of 35-14 at Lee Stadium to open up the 2017 high school football season on Friday night.
When in doubt, the 'Rocks turned to the "big play" and that was ultimately the difference in the game.
"We definitely have some guys who can break it in the open field," Coach Allen said of his Shamrocks. "We will need to work on sustaining drives because the big play isn't always going to be there, but Cade (Hannahs) and some other guys did a nice job converting on some big plays when we really needed them."
Coach Gadd agreed with his counterpart that the big plays were the turning point in the game.
"Those plays really hurt us in the first half," admitted the Trojans' boss. "We were able to make some adjustments at halftime and that really helped, but I have to be able to make those adjustments quicker in the game. The big play changed the football game, we were able to take the lead in the first half, and we allowed them to score right away and we can not let things like that start to snowball on us."
After coming up with a big defensive stop and forcing Newcomerstown to turn the ball over on downs, Barnesville ran just three plays capped off by a 50-yard touchdown run by quarterback Hannahs to start off the contest.
The two-point conversion failed, but the 'Rocks led 6-0 with 5:39 remaining in the first quarter.
The Trojans' offense had a hard time getting started in the opening half as they turned the ball over on downs again and then punted on their next two possessions, but they were able to get on the board with a touchdown mid-way through the second quarter.
Wyatt Conner paced the scoring drive for Newcomerstown (0-1) with five carries for 18 yards and the touchdown followed by an Alex Barrington extra-point giving the hosts a slim 7-6 advantage with six minutes left in the period.
The Shamrocks' offense went right back to work as they would score touchdowns on their next two drives, the first a 40-yard touchdown pass to Harley Raines from Hannahs and the second an 83-yard touchdown run by Hannahs.
Barnesville completed the two-point conversion on the first TD on a Hannahs-to-Raines pass and Cade Stephen booted in the extra-point on the second to giving them a 21-7 halftime edge.
Hannahs continued his brilliant effort with a 64-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter.
Stephen kicked in the point-after and the 'Rocks compiled their largest lead of the game at 28-7 at the 11:09 mark of the third round.
Following that score, the Newcomerstown defense tightened up and only allowed 20 yards and two first downs the rest of the game.
The Trojans minimized the damage with an impressive 16-play, 86-yard drive that resulted in a Logan Zimmerman two-yard TD.
After Barrington completed the extra-point, NHS made it a two-possession game, but still trailed 28-14 with 8:17 left in the affair.
Barnesville scored one more time before opening night came to a conclusion thanks to a fumble recovery by Strous at the Newcomerstown four-yard line which set the visitors up nicely.
Strous followed up his fumble recovery with a two-yard TD run to provide the 35-14 final score.
"This game was a testament to the kids," offered Coach Allen after recording his first career win at Barnesville. "Going into our next game, we need to work on minimizing the penalties and turnovers. We have to keep getting positive yards and quit putting ourselves behind the sticks."
Hannahs finished the game with 226 rushing yards and three TDs on only 10 carries while adding 58 yards and a touchdown through the air to pace the Barnesville offense.
Conner led the way for the Trojans with 119 yards on the ground and a TD on 25 attempts.
"Effort-wise, I think the kids played real hard and I'm proud of that," concluded Newcomerstown's Gadd. "I think all of our kids really stepped up in the second half, but we will have to work on not giving up the big plays."
NEXT -- Both teams are on the road this week - Barnesville at Meadowbrook and Newcomerstown at Buckeye Trail. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.