McLouth football rolls by Jackson Heights in playoff opener
Friday’s visit from Jackson Heights marked McLouth High’s return to the playoff scene for the first time since 2005. However, as far as statistics go, it was just another day at the office.
As has been the case most of the season, the Bulldogs overcame a slow start for a lopsided win, handing the Cobras a 42-8 loss Friday at Stan Braksick Sports Complex.
“We had probably one of the best practices that we’ve had during the entire week,” coach Chris Stewart said. “All the kids, not just our varsity players, really stepped it up and worked hard. We had a lot of intensity during practice last week, and I think that was one of the reasons we came out and played really hard.”
Neither team scored in the opening period, but MHS (9-1) grabbed control three second-quarter touchdowns. Senior quarterback Marc Walbridge opened scoring with a 16-yard touchdown pass to junior Nick McAferty, then senior Dakota Cop scored on a two-yard run. Walbridge closed out the half with a 60-yard bomb to Cop, making it 24-0 Bulldogs at the break.
The MHS defense kept the Cobras (6-4) off the scoreboard for the duration of the first half, marking the fifth team the Bulldogs have accomplished that feat this season.
“We kind of had to get a feel for the game in the first quarter,” said Walbridge, who was 6-of-10 passing for 156 yards and three touchdowns. “After that, our offense picked up and our defense stayed the same, then we did a good job through the whole game.”
McAferty hauled in his second touchdown catch in the third quarter when a Walbridge pass deflected off the helmet of a Jackson Heights defender. McAferty snagged the ball out of the air for a 20-yard score. Korby Struby answered with the Cobras’ only touchdown of the night, hitting Cameron Thomas from 18 yards out, but Cop closed out the quarter with a 10-yard scoring burst.
Senior T.J. Crowell, who led the Bulldog rushing attack with 114 yards, scored the final points of the game with a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs finished the game with 415 yards of total offense. Cop and Walbridge complemented Crowell’s rushing performance with 73 and 72 yards, respectively.
“We kept it similar to what we’ve done in the past,” Stewart said. “We gave the ball to different people and just threw it and ran it with the standard plays that we have.”
Junior Drew Cerny left the game with an injury in the first quarter and did not return, but Stewart expects Cerny to be available this week.
The Bulldogs will play host to Lyndon (10-0) for Friday’s sectional playoff game. The Tigers defeated Wabaunsee in the regional round, 44-0. They have averaged 52.9 points per game this season while recording six shutouts on defense.
“If we play effort-wise like we did against Jackson Heights, then execute a little bit better, I think we can definitely do it,” Walbridge said. “If we’re not intimidated and come out and play our own game, I think we’ll be fine. We get great support here, great facilities and everything else. It’s just a great atmosphere to play in, so it means a lot to at least get one more shot here at home.”
The winner of Friday’s contest will face the winner of Centralia (10-0) and Olpe (8-2) in the sub-state round on Nov. 16.