Knights muscle past Wolverines 44-25 on homecoming in Tabor
TABOR - Fremont-Mills overcame a slow start and erased a double-digit halftime deficit before pulling away for a 44-25 homecoming win over visiting East Mills in Eight-player District 9 action Friday night.
With the win, the Knights improved to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in district play, while East Mills fell to 3-2 and 1-2.
“We made some simple adjustments at halftime. We stuck to our original game plan but we just talked about how to execute better,” Fremont-Mills head coach Greg Ernster said. “The kids were kind of down a little bit and we told them you’ve just got to believe in yourselves and battle back. And that’s what the kids did.”
Fremont-Mills got on the scoreboard first, starting the game with a 65-yard, 14-play scoring drive that took more than 9 minutes off the clock. Braxton Blackburn capped the drive with an 11-yard run. The Knights were successful on their two-point conversion, a bootleg by quarterback Taylor Reed.
The Wolverines answered with a scoring drive of their own that culminated with a 3-yard scoring toss from quarterback Zach Thornburg to Mason Crouse with one second left in the first quarter. Ryan Stortenbecker converted the extra point kick to trim the Knights’ advantage to 8-7.
After stopping Fremont-Mills on its ensuing possession, the Wolverines put together their second scoring drive midway through the second quarter. East Mills looked like it was going to score a touchdown after driving to the Knights’ 2 yard line, but a quarterback sack left the Wolverines with a fourth-and-goal at the 13. Stortenbecker drilled a 30-yard field goal on the next play to put East Mills up 10-8.
After a “3-and-out” on Fremont-Mills’ next possession, the Wolverines increased their lead with a 2-yard TD pass from Thornburg to Crouse with just 16 seconds left in the half. The duo then teamed up on a successful two-point conversion to put the Wolverines up 18-8 heading into intermission. The scoring drive was kept alive thanks to a pair of third-and-long conversions from Thornburg to Davis McGrew.
Trailing by 10 points, the Knights adjusted their offensive strategy in the second half. Instead of trying to run time off the clock and limit possessions and touches for East Mills, the Knights came out throwing. On their first play of the second half, Reed teamed up with tight end Owen Thornton on a 42-yard, play-action touchdown pass. A successful two-point conversion pass from Reed to Paxten Vanhouten cut the East Mills lead to 18-16.
Playing on the defensive side of the ball, Reed set up the Knights’ next score when he intercepted a Wolverine pass on the ensuing possession and returned it to the F-M 38. Six plays later,
Payton Vanhouten darted 24 yards for the go-ahead TD.
Another interception on East Mills’ next possession – this time by Thornton – put the Knights in position to score their next touchdown, a 51-yard run by Blackburn. A two-point conversion pass from Reed to Ike Lemonds increased the F-M lead to 30-18.
East Mills did gain some momentum back when McGrew returned the ensuing kickoff back 78 yards for a touchdown. Moments later, East Mills recovered a fumble on the F-M 17 yard line. However, the Wolverines failed to convert the field position into points. A Blackburn sack of Reed on 4th-and -10 ended the East Mills scoring threat.
Utilizing a powerful running game, the Knights took control as the second half wore on. Fremont-Mills clinched the win with fourth quarter touchdown runs of 13 and 21 yards by Blackburn.
Ernster conceded the Knights. game plan was altered in the second half.
“Their offense is dangerous. They can make plays any time and we wanted to limit their touches, for sure,” he said. “When we got behind, we had to leave that game plan. I don’t think they have a ton of depth so we had to make sure we took advantage of that so we tried to go a little more up-tempo, at least more of our regular style of offense.”
East Mills head coach Kevin Schafer said Fremont-Mills play-action passes early in the second half and the Knights’ powerful running game proved to be too much for his undermanned team to handle.
“When you’re playing a good team, they can come back. The play-action passes, we were nervous about those,” he said. “That happened to us last week against C-A-M. Some of it, when you’re playing a team that can run the ball that well, a lot eyes are in the backfield. When they went play-action, a lot of eyes were in the backfield. There was couple times we had two guys on one guy and somebody else was open.
“Their coverage improved greatly in the second half and last year we were able to keep them honest in the run game and we’re just not as good in that area this year.”
Statistically, the Knights tallied 255 yards rushing and 106 in the air. Blackburn finished the night with 148 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Paxten Vanhouten paced the Knights’ defense with 8 team-leading tackles.
For East Mills, Thornburg passed for 185 yards and two TDs. Crouse tallied 10 pass receptions for 125 yards. The Wolverines totaled 185 yards passing and just 1 yard on the ground. Defensively, McGrew recorded a game-high 10.5 tackles.
Fremont-Mills is on the road this Friday at East Union while East Mills hosts Bedford for homecoming.
EM 07 11 07 00 – 25
FM 08 00 22 14 – 44
FM – Braxton Blackburn, 11 run (Taylor Reed run).
EM – Mason Crouse, 3 pass from Zach Thornburg (Ryan Stortenbecker kick).
EM – Stortenbecker, 30 field goal.
FM – Owen Thornton, 42 pass from Reed (Paxten Vonhouten pass from Reed).
FM – Peyton Vanhouten, 24 run (pass failed).
FM – Blackburn, 51 run (Ike Lemonds pass from Reed).
EM – Davis McGrew, 78 kickoff return (Stortenbecker kick).
FM – Blackburn, 13 run (Blackburn pass from Reed).
FM – Blackburn, 21 run (kick blocked).