The Thomas More Prep-Marian High School football team was optimistic for its homecoming contest Friday night against MCL perennial power Smith Center.
After a big win last week at Ellis, the Monarchs had hoped to carry that momentum into the week against the Class 2-1A playoff hopeful Redmen.
Smith Center had other plans.
After scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions, the Redmen put the pedal to the floor and never looked back, as they overpowered the Monarchs in a 61-14 victory at Lewis Field Stadium.
Smith Center head coach Darren Sasse, whose club lost 23-0 to Phillipsburg a week ago, was pleased with the intensity on the road for the first time this season.
“We really tried to practice hard this week, Sasse said. “We knew they were going to be a hurry up team and we tried to prepare for that; Defensively we bent a fair amount, but fortunately we didn’t break a whole lot, and offensively we were able to get the yards we wanted to be able to get.”
Much like last year, Smith Center was coming off a loss to the Panthers. They used a huge win against TMP to start a long streak that didn’t end until the 2-1A sub-state championships game.
“This league is tough and TMP is a good team, we were just able to get rolling on them, but every week is tough in this league,” Sasse said.
Trace Haven had a big night for the Redmen, racking up 107 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries. He was quick to shift his success to the practice squad.
“The blackshirts really came through for us this week in practice and showed us a really good look,” Haven said. “Our line really got off the ball and drove the defense backward.”
As impressive a night as Haven had, junior running back Ethan Peterson had an even bigger one. He was responsible for four of the team’s touchdowns. Three of those came on the ground, as he carried the ball eight times for 190 yards, and the other touchdown came on a 99-yard kickoff return.
Peterson echoed the sentiment of his teammate Haven.
“I’ve just gotta give it up to my line, I can’t make any of those runs without them,” he said.
Smith Center received the opening kick and began its first possession at the 22-yard line. The second play from scrimmage, Haven took the ball 76 yards for the Redmen’s first of many scores.
TMP’s offense started the game at its own 15 yard-line and found some early success moving the ball. Senior quarterback David McFarland found senior wide receiver Luke Ruder for a couple of completions, but the drive ultimately stalled out at the Monarchs’ 47.
Smith Center got the ball back at its own 20. After a facemask penalty and a couple of short gains, the Redmen faced a third-and-4 at the 47. A handoff to Peterson produced a 53-yard touchdown run making for 14-0 Redmen lead midway through the first.
After a 23-yard kickoff return by Ruder, the Monarchs looked to capitalize on good field position, as they began their second possession from their own 42. After a completion to Creighton Renz on first down, TMP attempted a throwback pass which was completed to Tate Garcia for a gain of 11. Two plays later, McFarland found Gavin Schumacher in the end zone from 28.
Smith Center began their third possession at their own 28. After the aide of a couple of TMP penalties, the Redmen found themselves at their own 42, and on first down, Colby Benoit took the handoff all the way down to the 13. A few plays later, Haven punched in the touchdown from 3 to make it 21-7.
TMP’s went three and out on its next possession, unable to overcome a holding penalty on first down. The Monarch defense came up strong though, as it forced Smith Center to punt the next drive.
TMP was able to find the end zone again late int the second quarter, thanks to a forced fumble by Tate Garcia, but by that time Smith Center was already out to a 34-14 lead.
The ensuing kickoff is when Peterson took the ball 99 yards to the house. Then TMP went three and out following and Peterson again found paydirt from 64 yards for another touchdown. The Redmen led 48-14 at half.
Smith Center continued its dominance in the second half, opening with a 32-yard run from Peterson. The Redmen would score one more time, before the reserves made their way on to the field toward the end of the third quarter.
After big offensive performances, especially in the passing game the previous two weeks, the Redmen defense held TMP in check to only 275 yards on offense, while they tallied up 485 themselves.
“If you can’t get any run surge they’re going to be able to defend the pass, especially a good team like Smith Center, they’re known for their defense,” said Monarch coach Jason Cauley.
The coach added his team needs to make wide-sweeping improvements,.
“At this point, it’s every facet of the game, you look at the run game to the pass game to run defense to defending the pass, it’s just everything,” he said. “Once (Smith Center) found success the kids started doubting what they’ve been taught.”
TMP looks to bounce back next as it travels to Plainville (0-3), and Smith Center looks to build off the big win as the Redmen host Norton (3-0) at home next Friday.