Special teams give MHS momentum in 4th straight win
In the midst of a tight game for the first time this season on Friday, the McLouth High football team rode the momentum of a huge special teams play to score 35 unanswered points and earn another blowout victory.
The Bulldogs, who went on to a 49-13 win, were only up a single point in the second quarter against Sunrise Christian Academy at Stan Braksick Sports Complex before MHS junior nose tackle Dakota Cop busted through the line to block a punt in the end zone and teammate Charlie Courtney recovered it for a touchdown.
Said McLouth coach Chris Stewart: “The momentum swing came our way after that.”
Indeed, the Buffaloes never scored again, while the Bulldogs took an eight-point lead to the half and blew the game open with a 21-point third quarter.
Stewart praised SCA for its quality quarterback and wide receivers, which had kept the visitors in the game into the second quarter. The coach said the MHS special teams score turned things around in the homecoming victory.
“It kind of convinced our kids we’re capable of playing and we’re ready to start playing a little bit harder and doing some things,” Stewart said.
Both Cop and Drew Cerny ran for first-half scores and the Bulldogs (4-0) discovered running the ball up the middle to be the most productive way to steadily put their foes away in the second half.
Stewart said SCA (3-2) had scouted the MHS outside rushing attack pretty well. McLouth countered by giving the Buffaloes defense a heavy diet of Shawn Dailey runs in between the tackles.
The senior, who finished with 157 yards on 24 carries, rushed for three third-quarter touchdowns and was routinely picking up eight to 10 yards a carry by breaking tackles, Stewart said.
By the time junior quarterback Marc Walbridge hit Dailey for a 35-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter, McLouth had turned a one-point lead into a 36-point rout.
That successful turnaround had plenty to do with the MHS secondary, which kept the pass-heavy Sunrise offense out of the end zone the final three quarters, despite SCA passing for more than 300 yards in the loss.
“We were always able to stop them on a drive,” Stewart said of the final 36 minutes.
Whether they were coming up with fourth-down stops or simply taking the ball away, the Bulldogs had an answer for Sunrise. Twice, the answer was senior McLouth cornerback Cameron Humerickhouse, who picked off two passes.
“He was just playing the zone coverage really well and locking up on the guy,” Stewart said of the defensive back.
Sophomore Nick McAferty had another interception for the MHS secondary and the fourth-year head coach said the defense picked up as players got more accustomed to Sunrise’s routes and speed. With a good pass rush from the defensive line, Stewart added, Buffaloes QB Zach Howell was under pressure almost every time he threw the ball.
Unbeaten and having outscored their opponents 202-19 so far this season, Stewart said the Bulldogs are feeling better about themselves each time they take the field.
“Their confidence will build every time they win a game,” the coach said.
In the meantime, Stewart added, he is trying to keep the players focused on working hard at practice.
“As a coach, you’re always worried as you start winning games you might see kids kind of thinking they’ve arrived when they really haven’t,” the coach said.
Stewart doesn’t think McLouth will lose its motivation, though, moving forward.
At 7 p.m. Friday, MHS plays at Jefferson County North (1-3), in Winchester.
McLouth 49, Sunrise Christian Academy 13
Score by quarters
SCA 13 0 0 0 — 13
MHS 14 7 21 7 — 49
S — Prestyn Atherton 6 pass from Zach Howell. Bo Westerfield kick.
M — Dakota Cop 5 run. John Berry kick.
M — Drew Cerny 14 run. Berry kick.
S — Isaias McDonald 39 pass from Howell. Kick blocked.
M — Charlie Courtney recovery in end zone after Cop blocked punt. Berry kick.
M — Shawn Dailey 14 run. Berry kick.
M — Dailey 9 run. Berry kick.
M — Dailey 5 run. Berry kick.
M — Dailey 35 pass from Marc Walbridge. Berry kick.