It was only 14 seconds into the game and the sun was still shining brightly on Lee Stadium thanks to the early 7 p.m. kickoff time, but it was already lights out for Newcomerstown as Tuscarawas Central Catholic's Tyler Sunderlin returned the opening kick 85 yards to propel the Saints to a quick 7-0 lead.
Though the Trojans regrouped somewhat on their next drive, the team never fully recovered and ultimately fell 35-6 to the Saints on homecoming night.
The loss evened the Trojans record to 2-2 (0-1 IVC) while the unbeaten Saints went to 4-0 (1-0 IVC).
Turnovers, however, are what eventually did the Trojans in as Newcomerstown lost that battle, 4-1. Statistically, the IVC rivals finished almost dead-even in yardage (195-184 in the Saints' favor).
In fact, it seemed the early TD return might be soon forgotten when the Trojans took the ensuing kickoff at their 26. The Orange and Black rattled off a 13-play, 41-yard drive that chewed up a whopping 7:02 off the scoreboard. Although the drive fizzled at the Saints' 33, it looked as if Newcomerstown had settled down for a closely-contested ball game.
The Saints, however, immediately headed in the other direction with a sustained drive for six points. Sam Fondriest hauled in a four-yard pass from quarterback Joe Lawless to cap a 14-play, 67-yard march. Brendon DeMuth's PAT made it 14-0 at the 11:10 mark of the second quarter.
The ugly turnover virus got into the Trojans' system at this point, with no vaccine in sight.
After moving the ball to the Saints' 48, Central Catholic's Jordan Neidig picked off a Caleb Rankin pass near the line of scrimmage and darted 50 yards to the end zone. The score stood 21-0 at the 7:53 mark after DeMuth's PAT.
The teams traded punts before the Trojans began anew at their 12 with 3:31 to go in the half, but on the first play, a fumble put the Saints back in business. A three-yard run by Nick VonAllman and DeMuth's PAT made it 28-0 with 2:44 to play.
Another interception followed on the Trojans' next possession, this one on halfback pass, giving TCC another shot at the end zone. The Trojans' defense held this time, and the Saints were forced to punt, but no sooner had they done so, another interception on the first play gave the ball right back.
The Saints' Robbie Martinelli made his second "pick" and this time the "D" couldn't hold. Using a run-pass mix to plug its way to the 15, TCC hit paydirt when Lawless sizzled a pass to Fondriest over the middle for six as time expired. DeMuth's boot made it 35-0 and no one in the stadium was shocked more the NHS coach Eric Brock.
"I'm shocked. I never would have guessed we would come out and do that in the first half", said Brock. "For whatever reason, we weren't ready to play, which I don't understand. The kids worked hard all week and had good practices but the opening kickoff definitely threw some of them off and the execution seemed to fall from there. Their team is too good on offense to give them the opportunities we did in the first half."
The second half was a different story, at least for the defense. Newcomerstown forced TCC to punt on all four of its possessions and though they still had all their starters in, the Saints could do little against the smothering Trojan 11.
"Our defense kept them out of the end zone the rest of the way," Brock related. "That's the game I thought it would be all night -- a back and forth battle."
Offensively, the team still struggled. Early in the third quarter, a 35-yard interception return by Jansen Lenzo put the ball at the Saints' 10, but NHS couldn't move the ball and turned it over on downs.
It wasn't until late in the game that the Trojans broke the ice. Starting on their 29, NHS moved the ball with two passes to Billy Mardis (28 yards) and runs by Miller (12) and Rankin (7). Rankin clipped the final 14 yards with a nice pass to Miller in the corner of the end zone, who in turn made a nice grab for the score. The PAT was no good and the Saints then ran out the clock.
Lawless was 17-of-27 for 140 yards, two TDs and one interception. Neidig had five receptions for 50 yards while Nick VonAllman had 26 yards rushing of his team's 55 total.
Rankin was 13-of-23 for 108 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the Trojans while Miller rushed for 37 yards on 17 carries. Miller also had four receptions for 28 yards, Matt Ayres caught two for 27 markers and Serafin Sanchez pulled in three for 19.
NEXT-- Newcomerstown travels to Malvern to face another unbeaten IVC foe Friday at 7:30 p.m.
TUSKY CC 35, NEWCOMERSTOWN 6
Tusky CC 7 28 0 0 -- 35
Newcomerstown 0 0 0 6 -- 6
TCC -- Tyler Sunderlin 85 kickoff return (Brendon DeMuth kick)
CC - Sam Fondriest 4 pass from Joe Lawless (DeMuth kick)
CC - Jordan Neidig 50 interception return (DeMuth kick)
CC - Nick Von Allman 3 run (DeMuth kick)
CC - Fondriest 15 pass from Lawless (DeMuth kick)
N--Josh Miller 14 pass from Caleb Rankin (kick failed).
First Downs 11 12
Rushes-yards 55 76
Passing yards 140 108
Comp-Att-Int 17-27-1 13-24-3
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-yds 4-28 3-17
RUSHING--Tusky CC, Nick VonAllman 9-26; Joe Lawless 11-20; Tommy Sampsel 2-6; Tyler Sunderlin 1-3. Newcomerstown, Josh Miller 17-37; Caleb Rankin 9-18; Bubba Harris 4-18; Chris Stockum 1-3.
PASSING--Tusky CC, Lawless 17-27-140-2-1. Newcomerstown, Rankin 13-23-108-2-1.
RECEIVING--Tusky CC, Jordan Neidig 5-50; Sam Fondriest 4-34; 2-12; Sunderlin 5-36; Sampsel 2-12; VonAllman 1-8. Newcomerstown, Miller 4-28; Matt Ayres 2-27; Serafin Sanchez 43-14; Jansen Lenzo 1-8; Chris Stockum 1-9.