Home and a win
Home finally is sweet.
After five years of leaving the Bulldog Sports Complex with loss after loss, the Bulldogs had a home-field advantage on Friday.
This, after all, was the team that snapped a 20-game losing streak the week before on the road.
And, finally, the home crowd would not be disappointed on this occasion.
After stopping a Wathena drive that at one point reached the McLouth 6-yard-line, the Bulldogs drove 85 yards in 19 plays and MHS had a 6-0 lead. On the extra point, the Bulldogs' kick hit a Wathena player, but still bounced through the uprights for a 7-0 lead.
McLouth built a 13-0 lead in the third quarter, but then had to stave off a Wildcat rally. WHS scored twice in the third, but could not take the lead. McLouth held on for a 13-12 win.
"This year it went our way," MHS coach Harry Hester said. "We'll take that one-point victory over anybody at anytime."
Last year, McLouth appeared to have a last-minute victory against Wathena on the same field, but WHS escaped with a 21-20 win.
On Friday, the Bulldogs were fortunate to get that elusive home victory.
Wathena had 279 rushing yards and 71 passing yards compared to McLouth's 169 yards on the ground and 25 in the air. Both teams had an interception, while McLouth had one fumble compared to Wathena's two.
"We just kept hanging on when we needed to and held them out of the end zone," Hester said.
Against Horton in the season opener, the Bulldogs rushed for more than 300 yards, but Friday's game was a different story.
"We really didn't have a good week of practice," Hester said. "We were dealing with success of week one. We lost focus and with all the hype and the losing streak at home they wanted to get rid of it bad."
McLouth quarterback Jimmy Steffey was 3-of-4 passing with one touchdown throw, a 4-yard pass to Kyle Sparks.
Wathena went 9-for-18 passing.
It was Wathena's ground game that gave McLouth some fits, but a defensive adjustment helped the Bulldogs in the second half, Hester said.
"They found a weakness and they kept attacking it," Hester said. "Defensively, coach (Chris) Stewart made an adjustment and stopped the bleeding and got us a victory."
Special teams, or "special forces" as Hester calls it, were big for McLouth.
Trevor Keling blocked a Wathena extra point, while Kevin Stewart returned a punt to the Wathena 34. A face mask penalty helped start the drive at the Wathena 19.
Ripp Harrison also had a 68-yard punt that put Wathena deep in its own territory.
Now 2-0, McLouth is tied with Jefferson County North and Troy atop the Delaware Valley League. The Bulldogs will look to push their new streak to three when they travel Friday to Doniphan West to take on the newly formed Mustang squad. Doniphan West (1-1) is the former Highland and Midway-Denton teams combined. The team is coached by Mark Martin, a veteran coach who has won state championships in 8-man as coach at Midway-Denton.
"We're focused on playing Doniphan West," Hester said. "All those streaks are behind us now. We're not satisfied with 2-0."
MHS football notes
Stewart earns honors
¢ Kevin Stewart rushing success hasn't gone unnoticed. Stewart was named as an area athlete-of-the week by the Lawrence Journal-World for his accomplishments against Horton. He also was nominated as a performer of the week by HovpenSports.com after the Horton game.
Home again and again
¢McLouth's game Friday at Doniphan West will be the second road game of the year in three weeks, but the team will be on the road just once in its last six games.