SALINA — Sacred Heart takeaways were the gift that kept giving.
The Knights used a dominating first-half defensive effort to seize control and made La Crosse pay to the tune of 17 points Friday night as they rolled to a 27-0 homecoming victory over the Leopards at Graves Family Sports Complex.
Sacred Heart fed its offense by forcing five turnovers, and as a result Knights coach Garrett Galanski will now be feeding the defense.
“My players let me know,” Galanski said with a smile. “During our pregame walkthrough, I told them if they got five turnovers I’d buy them all dinner.”
Four of the takeaways came in the first half, when the Knights held La Crosse to 19 yards total offense on the way to a 31-0 advantage. The Leopards finished with 178 yards.
The Knights improved to 2-3, while La Crosse also is 2-3.
While the Sacred Heart defense excelled, the offense also put up 312 yards, 214 through the air, with David Anderson completing 10 of 15 passes with four touchdowns to four different receivers.
“We were very happy, that was well needed,” Anderson said. “We just listened to our coaches, and we got touchdowns to two guys who had never had one before.
“We have a lot of good receivers.”
A fourth-down stop by the defense led to the Knights’ first score, a 41-yard strike from Anderson to Trace Leners, who finished with three catches for 82 yards. Sacred Heart added three more touchdowns — a 4-yard Jared McCartney run, 16-yard Anderson-to-Ethan Buckner pass play and a 50-yard completion to Charlie Skidmore — in the second quarter andcapped it off with a 33-yard Skidmore field goal.
“This season hasn’t started the way we wanted it to, but each week we’ve been getting better,” said Skidmore, who had two catches for 66 yards, two interceptions and two rushes for 28 yards. “Our offense was clicking and our defense was strong the whole game.
“Our goal was three turnovers and we got that pretty early, so we just tried to keep going.”
In addition to the three interceptions — Blaise Kaiser had the other one — the Knights got a pair of first-half fumble recoveries from linebacker Cole Butts.
“We came out and did what we wanted to do,” Butts said. “We had a lot of fire and intensity.
“This was definitely our best game.”
The Knights got one second-half touchdown, a 14-yard Anderson-to-Landon Power completion in the third quarter, and held La Crosse out of the end zone.
“We conquered offense, defense and special teams,” Galanski said. “The one thing we struggled with was penalties.
“But I’m really happy with the way we played.”
The Knights were penalized seven times for 70 yards, but La Crosse was flagged 11 times for 119.
For La Crosse, which finished with 119 yards rushing, quarterback Hunter Morgan had 51 yards and running back Colby Stull 43. Morgan completed 2 of 12 passes for 59 yards.
Sacred Heart goes on the road next week to face Smith Center.