By: Kent Hutchison
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
MONTPELIER- In a preview of what in 2016 will be a Toledo Area Athletic Conference contest, the Montpelier Locomotives and Hilltop Cadets battled toe to toe in the trenches in the first half of the season opener. However the home team struck with a vengeance in the third quarter scoring 20 points en route to a 40-0 romp over the Cadets.
The Cadets received the opening kickoff, and after a short return by Mikel Burlew, the offense began the night at the 32 yard line. Hilltop promptly went three and out after a connection between quarterback Quinn Smith and Ryan Brooker left the Cadets five yards shy of a first down.
Hilltop punter Justin Ashenfelter’s fourth down kick was downed at the Montpelier 22 yard line sending the Locos offense onto the field for the first time. The stay was brief as Dallas Royer emerged from the line of scrimmage and scampered down the left sideline past the Cadet bench for a 74 yard touchdown. Cody Caudill’s extra point attempt split the uprights to give the home team a 7-0 lead with 10:25 left on the 1st quarter clock.
Burlew returned the Caudill kick to the Hilltop 39 yard line. The second possession started on a positive note for the Cadets as Smith found Brooker again for a five yard gain. After an incompletion Smith hit Burlew for 8 yards and the initial first down of the night for the red and white. Two runs by Smith resulted in six yards, only in the wrong direction. However the Cadets moved the chains once again when Tyler Suboski hauled in the Smith aerial for a 20 yard pick up. With the ball now on the Montpelier 33, a seven yard loss on a sweep by Suboski was sandwiched between two Smith incompletions. Facing fourth and 17, Ashenfelter pinned the Locos deep in their territory as the ball was downed at the Montpelier 3 yard line.
With 5:49 left in the initial period Montpelier went back on the attack. Royer picked up two, the Jordan Birdsall ripped off an 11 yard gain. Quarterback Dylan Snyder attempted his first pass of the evening on first and ten, but his attempt to Caudill was broken up by Smith. A toss sweep left for Birdsall resulted in a 65 yard pick up and moved the ball all the way down to the Cadets 20 yard line. Just when it appeared the Locos were poised to put more points on the board, a first down fumble by Royer halted the drive giving Hilltop possession at their 19 yard stripe.
A gain of one by Chase Masters was followed by a 5 yard gain when Smith and Suboski hooked up. David Smith picked up a first down when a sweep left turned into 7 positive yards. An offsides penalty on the Locos left Hilltop with a first and five from their 37 yard line. Just when it appeared the Cadets had something going offensively things headed south following an incompletion, a gain of two by Quinn Smith, and then another incompletion. Ashenfelter punted once again and after a short return by Caudill the Montpelier offense was back in business at their 35, with 2:00 left in the opening period.
Royer gained a yard on first down, and then Snyder hit McCord for a 14 yard gain and a Loco first down at midfield. The drive and quarter ended there however after a run by Birdsall resulted in a one yard loss and Snyder was unable to connect on two pass attempts. Snyder’s punt was fielded by Burlew and returned to the Cadet 15 yard stripe.
The Montpelier defense continued to hold the Hilltop offense in check as Quinn Smith was dropped for a two yard loss. David Smith gained 5 hard yards, but the Ashenfelter was called back on the field to punt after a Smith pass intended for Steven Riley fell to the turf.
Caudill returned the kick to his team’s 48, with 10:11 remaining in the first half. The Locos methodically marched through the Cadet defense. Royer had two runs gaining 5 yards on each. Birdsall sprinted around the left side once again, this time for 27 more yards. With the ball all the way down to the Hilltop 15, Royer was stopped for no gain. Snyder heaved an attempt into the end zone that was broken up David Smith. On third down Snyder dropped back again, but was flushed out of the pocket for a gain of one. Facing fourth and 9 from the Hilltop 14 yard line, the signal caller took off again and sprinted through the Cadet defense into the end zone. However, the celebration was short lived as the official indicated an illegal formation negated the score. Fourth and 14 turned into elation for Hilltop when Dallas Timberman stepped in the path of a Snyder pass intended for Alex Zuver and returned the pick to the 24 yard line.
Hilltop moved the sticks on first down when Smith connected with Quinton Miller for a 13 yard gain. Smith hit Burlew for seven more, then the duo lost one yard on another completion. Facing third and four from the Cadet 42, Smith kept the snap but was able to gain just half the distance needed. Ashenfelter dropped back in punt formation once again. However, this time the kick was partially blocked by Hunter McKelvey and was downed at the Locos 35 yard line with 4:14 left in the first half.
Montpelier consumed all but 16 seconds of the remaining time using nine running plays and just one pass. Royer gained 15 on first down, then Birdsall ran three times to pick up a first down after gaining one, six, and then nine yards. Royer joined the party again as he picked up 14 more, then hauled in a pass from Snyder good for 8 more yards and finally added a one yard run. Facing third and one from the Hilltop nine, Birdsall gained six more. Royer was stopped at the one, and then Birdsall ended the drive pounding his way across the goal line with Ethan Dunson attached to his leg. Caudill’s kick was good giving the Locos a 14-0 advantage at halftime.
After an outstanding halftime performance by both bands, the Locos Nate McCord covered the onside kick attempted by the Cadets at the Montpelier 46 yard line.
The momentum gained by the score at the end of the first half was obvious as the Locos picked up where they left off to begin quarter number three. In just a little over three minutes Royer and Birdsall took turns carrying the ball to cover the 54 yards in seven running plays. Birdsall picked up his second touchdown of the night when he burst in from the 2 yard line. Caudill’s kick was off the mark to the left, but Montpelier extended their margin to 20-0 with 8:43 left in the third quarter.
After battling mightily the first half, the Cadets appeared to have the wind knocked out of them in the second half. Their offense lost one yard in three plays and punted once again on their first drive.
On the other hand, Montpelier was energized and this time needed just three plays to cross the goal line once again. With the ball on their 19 yard line, Royer added seven to his total on first down. Birdsall had his number called again. This time after gaining positive yardage, the run was nullified by a holding penalty. The miscue did little to impede the Locos progress as Snyder joined the ground party ripping off an 84 yard touchdown scamper of his own. Caudill’s kick was true once again giving Montpelier a comfortable 27-0 lead.
With time definitely not on their side, Hilltop was forced to attempt to throw even more to get back in the game. Following a short kick, the Cadets had great field position at the Montpelier forty-three. Smith found Miller for three, then Timberman for two. Hilltop appeared to be gaining a little “Mo” with the ball at the Locos 37 yard line. However, two consecutive incompletions sent the offense to the sidelines.
The Hilltop defense kept battling. Royer added eight more, then a personal foul on the Cadets moved the ball to the Hilltop 43 yard marker. A false start on the Locos moved it back five, and then the tide turned when a fumbled snap was recovered by Jakob Morris at the Cadets 49 yard line.
Smith connected again with Burlew, this time for four yards. However, on the pass attempt on second down McCord leveled Smith with a crushing blow. As the pass hit the ground, so did Smith. The sophomore quarterback lay on the ground for a brief moment before popping back up. The injury required the Cadets to insert freshman Kristian Grapengeter at the QB position. A run by Grapengeter resulted in a two yard loss. Smith courageously marched back on to the field facing 4th and 12 from the Hilltop 46 yard line. He dropped back again and sent a pass in the direction of David Smith. As the pass was in the air, Smith was once again knocked forcefully to the turf, this time by Birdsall.
A tired and overmatched Cadet defense dug in once again. Birdsall got the call and ripped off an 11 yard gain that was negated by a facemask on the offense. The penalty moved the ball back to midfield with 50 seconds left in the quarter. That was more than enough time for Snyder to connect with McCord for a 50 yard touchdown pass. The Caudill kick was blocked as the scoreboard read Montpelier 33, Hilltop 0.
With the lead being thirty points or more, the new OHSAA rule of a running clock was enacted for the rest of the game. The Hilltop offense was unable to mount a charge as they were held to only two possessions and eight plays the last quarter.
Montpelier substituted freely the final twelve minutes and were able to add another score. Freshman Austin Grubb found daylight from 36 yards out on a sweep left. Caudill was accurate on his fourth extra point attempt of the night to provide the final margin of 40-0 in favor of the Locos.
The Locos not only dominated the score, but the stat sheet as well amassing 45 yards of offense compared to 133 for the Cadets. Montpelier shredded the Cadet defense for 472 rushing yards. The trio of Birdsall, Royer, and Snyder accounted for 431 yards. Birdsall carried the pigskin 14 times for 173 yards and a score, Royer picked up 160 yards and two touchdowns on 17 totes of the pigskin, while Snyder was just two yards shy of joining the century club in four carries and crossed the goal line two times. Grubb added 39 yards and a score on his two tries, while Evan Friend picked up 3 yards on his lone attempt.
Snyder went 3-10 passing for 73 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. McCord was on the receiving end of two of the passes including a 50 yard scoring strike, while Royer picked up the other reception for 8 yards.
The Montpelier defense limited the Hilltop ground game to negative 4 yards on 14 carries. David Smith gained 8 yards on 5 tries and Masters had one attempt for 1 yard. Quinn Smith kept the ball six times and was dropped for minus 11 yards, while Grapengeter and Suboski each had one carry for minus 2 and minus 7 yards respectively.
Smith attempted 36 passes completing 15 for 137 yards. Burlew was the favorite target hauling in six throws for 69 yards, while Suboski had 3 catches for 35 yards. Grapengeter and Quinton Miller each had two catches for 13 and 16 yards respectively.
With the win Montpelier moves to 1-0. The Locos will host the potent offense of the Wauseon Indians in the NWOAL opener for both teams on Friday, September 5.
Hilltop falls to 0-1 and will travel to Antwerp to battle the Archers. Both games begin at 7:00 pm.