Defense key in 29-point McLouth win
McLouth 42, Pleasant Ridge 13
Silver Lake 20, Rossville 18
(Team, record, point differential)
McLouth, 1-0, +13
Silver Lake, 1-0, +2
Rossville, 0-1, -2
Pleasant Ridge, 0-1, -13
It wasn’t easy — at least in the first half — but the McLouth High football team moved one step closer to the playoffs Friday.
In what was the closest game of the season thus far for the unbeaten Bulldogs, they earned a 42-13 district victory at Stan Braksick Stadium against Pleasant Ridge by shutting out the Rams in the second half.
MHS (7-0 overall, 1-0 district) was able to pull away from PRHS (5-2, 0-1), McLouth coach Chris Stewart said, following a big defensive play in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs’ offense had just fumbled the ball into their opponent’s end zone, leading to a touchback that gave Pleasant Ridge the ball. Holding a 21-13 advantage at the time, MHS seized control when junior outside linebacker TJ Crowell picked off a pass that put the home team right back in position to score.
“That to me was a very critical play on our part, defensively, to start turning the tide,” Stewart said.
The McLouth offense took full advantage of the short field and senior running back Shawn Dailey scored on a three-yard run to put MHS fully back on track.
Once that happened, Stewart said, the Bulldogs started playing better on both sides of the ball.
“We had execution on the offensive line and Shawn did a great job of running the football all night,” the fourth-year coach said, adding the defense stepped up and played harder in the final two quarters.
While the MHS defense kept the Rams from scoring, a 57-yard TD on a punt return by Drew Cerny and a 22-yard rushing score by Crowell in the fourth quarter sealed an undefeated record in Delaware Valley League play for McLouth, which wrapped up a DVL South division championship.
It was the first league title for the Bulldogs since 2005, before the DVL was split into divisions. Stewart said it was another important accomplishment for his team.
“That’s a big step to everything you do,” he said.
Next up for MHS in district play is a 7 p.m. home game against Rossville (6-1, 0-1), which is coming off its first loss of the season.
Stewart doesn’t expect his team’s eighth game to go the way of its previous seven, a span during which McLouth has outscored its opponents 332-44.
“I think it’ll probably be a lot closer game this week,” the coach said, before correcting himself. “I know it will. I’m not even thinking it.”
Stewart said the Bulldogs and RHS are fairly evenly matched. According to the MHS coach, Rossville runs the ball a lot behind the strength of its offensive line and throws the ball every once in a while.
“They’re a big, physical team,” Stewart said of RHS.
McLouth’s players and coaches know it will be important to beat Rossville on Senior Night before closing out the regular season at Silver Lake (6-1, 1-0) the following week.
“Another win would be great,” Stewart said. “That solidifies the possibility that we would be in the playoffs.”
McLouth 42, Pleasant Ridge 13
Score by quarters
PRHS 7 6 0 0 — 13
MHS 7 14 7 14 — 42
P — Blake Graham 99 pass from Dalton Warden. Kick good.
M — Marc Walbridge 1 run. John Berry kick.
M — Shawn Dailey 13 run. Berry kick.
M — Nick McAferty 77 pass from Walbridge. Berry kick.
P — Warden 5 run. Kick failed.
M — Dailey 3 run. Berry kick.
M — Drew Cerny 57 punt return. Berry kick.
M — TJ Crowell 22 run. Berry kick.