HAMLER- The Montpelier Locomotives had the cards stacked against them even before the opening kickoff. First it was Parent’s Night at Patrick Henry’s “Big Red Field”. As if that wasn’t enough motivation for the Patriots, throw in the fact that also on this night the “Pats” and their faithful fans were also paying tribute to Bill Inselmann who retired at the conclusion of last season following a 23 year stint as head coach, which included amassing 200 wins. Ultimately however, those two events paled in comparison to the effect that miscues had on the outcome of the game. Instead the Locos jumped out to a quick lead, only to fall victim to the turnover bug which bit the visitors four times on the night.
The game started on a positive note for the Locos as they won the toss and chose to take the ball. After a short return by Cody Caudill, Montpelier’s offense began the night at their 31 yard line. Dallas Royer rushed for six, and then quarterback Dylan Snyder connected with Nate McCord for a 14 yard gain as well as the initial first down of the game. Following a five yard false start penalty and an incomplete pass, Snyder called his number for six yards. The junior signal caller hit Caudill for 11 yards to move the chains. Royer got another chance picking up two, then Snyder to Caudill resulted in a gain of 19 more. With first and ten at the Patriots sixteen, Snyder ran the read option to perfection deciding to keep the ball himself and sprinting untouched into the end zone to put the visitors on top 6-0 at the 9:01 mark of the first quarter. The score stayed there as Caudill’s extra point kick sailed wide left.
The ensuing kick by Caudill was covered by Patrick Henry at their 44 yard line. The Patriots wasted little time to respond to the Locos score using just four plays and 49 seconds to travel the 66 yards. Running back Donnie Johnson capped off the drive with a 46 yard touchdown scamper down the left sideline to knot the score at six. The PAT attempt by Kent Peterson sailed through the uprights putting the hosts on top 7-6 as 8:07 remained in the first period.
Montpelier answered quickly needing just over one minute to cross the goal line. Following a fifteen yard return by Caudill, the Loco offense took over at their 34 yard marker. Royer was halted after a one yard gain. A Snyder aerial to Alex Zuver slipped through the junior receiver’s hands prompting head coach Steven Brancheau to call a time out. The decision paid instant dividends as Snyder to McCord was successful once again, this time for 30 yards. Now first and ten at the Patriots 35, Snyder ran the same quarterback keeper off the read option and the result was the same as well, only this time for a 35 yard touchdown run. Snyder found McCord for the third time, on this occasion for the 2 point conversion. The play gave Montpelier a 14-7 lead as 6:52 still remained in the opening stanza.
The frenetic pace continued as PH took just 1:55 to score once again. Johnson found the end zone via the ground for the second time, this instance from nine yards out. The kick by Peterson was on line to deadlock the score at fourteen.
After a ten yard kick return by Jared Lyons, Montpelier’s offense was back on the field at their 35 yard line. Could the scoring barrage continue on this possession? Unfortunately for the Locos the answer was no. Royer was dropped for a one yard loss on first down, then the momentum took a 180 degree turn when the Patriots Jake Ehlers stepped in front of a Snyder pass returning the interception to the Montpelier 30 yard line.
Patrick Henry wasted little time to capitalize on the turnover. On the first three downs of the possession the Loco defense gave up just two yards. However, facing fourth and 8, Bonner found Ehlers behind the defense for a 28 yard TD connection. The kick was good once again giving the home team a 21-14 advantage with 2:23 left in the high scoring first quarter.
Caudill returned the ensuing kickoff to the Loco 31 yard line. Snyder gained six on the ground, then hit Caudill for an 18 yard gain to move the ball to the Pat’s 44 yard marker. Snyder was dumped for a 3 yard loss, but picked up seven on another completion to Caudill. Just when it appeared the Locos were back on track, the tide turned again. As Snyder handed the ball to Jordan Birdsall the running back was consumed by a host of Patriots. As the clock ticked to zero, the pile was uncovered and the home team had recovered the pigskin at their 45 yard line.
The offensive onslaught continued for Patrick Henry to begin the second quarter. The Patriots marched the 55 yards in 11 plays with Johnson collecting his third touchdown of the half, this time from 4 yards out. Following the PAT the Patriots lead 28-14
Caudill returned the kick ten yards, and Montpelier’s offense was back on the field at their 30 yard line. The stay was brief however as the Locos turned the ball over for the third time in a row. This time Snyder’s pass on first down was intercepted by Peterson who returned the ball to the Locos 20 yard line.
With great field possession once again it was apparent the Pats would add to their lead. However, the Montpelier defense rose to the challenge shutting down Johnson on two running attempts, then taking advantage of a Patrick Henry holding penalty that nullified what appeared to be another Patriot score. Following the yardage march off, an incompletion lead to a quick kick by Bonner on fourth down. The punt sailed into the end zone leaving the Locos with first and ten at their 20 yard line with 6:31 remaining before halftime.
The offensive woes for the visitors continued however as a holding call nullified a 12 yard gain by Snyder. Another run by Snyder left the Locos with second down and seven. Unfortunately for the Locos successive rushes by Birdsall resulted in a loss of two yards forcing Montpelier to punt from their 21 yard line.
The Snyder kick was fair caught at the Patriots 49 yard line. Smelling blood, the PH offense went back to work. However an incompletion was followed by a jarring hit from Birdsall which resulted in a 3 yard loss. Facing 3rd and 13, the Pats responded with a 14 yard pass play, then Bonner found Storch wide open in the end zone for a 40 yard TD connection. The PAT split the posts again and the hosts were up 34-14.
If the turnovers which had led to scores weren’t a hard enough pill to swallow, the news continued to go from bad to worse for the Locos when Snyder was left standing on the sidelines as the rest of the offense came onto the field. The junior quarterback stood with ice on his right forearm following an apparent injury on the last possession.
Caudill moved from flanker to quarterback for the Locos as 2:21 was left in the half. With the ball at the Montpelier 20, Birdsall gained five on first down. Royer then had his number called for four yards, then picked up just enough on third down to move the sticks. However, a fumble on the center exchange lead to the end of the half with Patrick Henry comfortably out in front 34-14.
After the bands finished their halftime shows, the teams returned to the field. The third quarter was much less eventful than the previous two and much less entertaining as the bands as neither team added any points to the board. Instead the teams punted the ball back and forth, and Patrick Henry picked off another pass. However, unlike the first half this Loco miscue failed to result in any Patriot points.
The final stanza began with a glimpse of promise for the Montpelier eleven. Following a Patrick Henry punt to end the third quarter, the Locos took to the offensive from their 15 yard line. Royer ran for three, but a holding penalty resulted in a loss of four yards on second down. Caudill connected with McCord to move the ball out to the Locos 44 yard line, but a sack moved the ball three yards in the opposite direction. With the ball now at the Montpelier 47 yard marker, Caudill was unable to connect with Keaton Byers. Facing third and thirteen, Caudill launched an aerial downfield in the direction of McCord. The pass was broken up; however a yellow hankie, followed by an indication of pass interference on the Pats moved the ball to the PH 44 yard line and a Locomotive first down. Caudill lost four yards, then Birdsall two. Royer was able to get six of the yards back. However, the Locos were faced with a 4th and 10. Sophomore Zac Mason, now in at quarterback, connected with Simon Wang, but the completion was just inches short of the first down marker giving the ball back to the Patriots on downs at their 35 yard stripe.
Patrick Henry broke out of their offensive rut in short order. The Patriots used just four plays to cover the 65 yards, capped off by a 54 yard run by Bonner. The extra point kick was no good leaving the score 40-14 in favor of the Pats with 6:02 left in the contest.
At this point a number of reserves were inserted for each team. Following a kick out of bounds, Montpelier’s offense started at their 35 yard line. The second unit took full advantage of the opportunity. Lyons picked up three yards on his only carry of the night, then Austin Grubb picked up just enough for a first down with his seven yard scamper. With the ball at the Loco 45, Bryce Cooley had his number called twice in a row gaining ten, then nine yards. On second and one, Grubb was dropped for a loss of one. However, Cooley added a run good for four more yards to give Montpelier first and ten at the PH 33 yard marker. Grubb picked up one yard, then four successive runs by Cooley resulted in a gain of 27 yards total to give the Locos first and goal at the Pats five yard line. Grubb took it from there gaining 3 yards on first down, then busting through the line to the end zone for a 2 yard touchdown run. Cooley got one more touch to cover the extra point conversion, and close out the scoring and the game for a 40-22 final.
Prior to the injury and his subsequent exit from the game, Snyder carried the offensive load for the Locos. The quarterback used his legs to pick up 71 yards on six carries as well as two scores. He also used his arm to go a respectable 7of 11 for 102 yards, but served up two costly interceptions. Bryce Cooley and Austin Grubb made the most of their opportunity as well. Cooley had his number called seven times in the final drive and was the second leading rusher for the Locos with 50 yards. Grubb picked up 12 tough yards in 5 carries along with the 2 yard TD run. The usual productive tandem of Royer and Birdsall were held in check by the Patriot defense. Royer had 11 attempts for just 22 yards, while Birdsall had 5 carries and was held to a 4 yards. Caudill had 7 carries which resulted in a negative one yard, while Lyons had the one attempt for 3 yards.
Caudill completed one pass in five throws for 30 yards, while Mason connected with his intended target on his only attempt for nine yards.
McCord and Caudill were the leading receives as each hauled in four passes for 77 and 55 yards respectively, while Wang had a solo snag for nine yards.
The Locomotives, 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the NWOAL, will obviously concentrate this week on taking better care of the ball. On Friday they will load the bus and head over to road to Fulton County Road 6, home of Evergreen, for a NWOAL affair with the Vikings. Kickoff will be 7:00 pm.