RACINE, Ohio — Offense, defense and special teams, they all got in on the fun.
The Southern football team found a way to score in all-3 phases of the game on Friday night at Roger Lee Adams Memorial Field, as the Tornadoes rolled to a 36-6 victory over non-conference guest Portsmouth Notre Dame.
After forcing a three-and-out on the game’s opening drive, Southern (1-0) marched 69 yards in nine plays to break the scoreless tie. On a second-and-goal from the five, senior quarterback Logan Drummer found classmate Brody Dutton in the end zone with 7:00 left in the first quarter. Drummer made the extra point kick, giving the hosts a 7-0 lead.
Notre Dame (0-1) covered 77 yards and took the game into the second quarter on the ensuing drive, but had its field goal attempt blocked, giving Southern possession at the Tornado 14.
The Purple and Gold gained just three yards on their first three plays of the drive, but completed a fake punt pass for a first down to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, SHS junior Trey McNickle broke a 33-yard touchdown run. Drummer made the point-after kick, and extended the Tornado advantage to 14-0 with 7:19 left in the half.
Notre Dame was forced into another three-and-out, but recovered an SHS fumble on the punt. The Titans made it down to the Tornado 27, but fell inches short of a fourth down conversion. However, NDHS got the ball back after a Tornado fumble on the SHS 31, with 1:44 left in the half.
On the second play of the Titan drive, Dutton picked off a pass and rumbled 76 yards for the touchdown. McNickle ran in the two-point conversion with 49 seconds left in the half, and Southern went into the break with a 22-0 advantage.
McNickle returned the opening kickoff of the second half 79 yards for the touchdown. Drummer’s point-after kick gave SHS a 29-0 advantage just 10 seconds into the third quarter.
The Tornado defense forced a three-and-out on the next Notre Dame drive, and SHS returned the punt for a touchdown, only to have a penalty wipe the points off the board. Southern punted back to the Titans after just three plays.
Notre Dame earned a pair of first downs, but wound up three yards shy of moving the chains for a third time, giving Southern the ball at its own 42.
SHS needed just five plays to cover 58 yards, with Drummer tossing a 16-yard touchdown to Weston Thorla to complete the drive. Drummer kicked in the extra point, making Southern’s lead 36-0 with 1:24 left in the third.
The Titans drove 82 yards over the next 11:43, with Ben Mader finding the end zone from six yards out on the 16th play of the possession. The point-after kick failed, and Southern ran the clock out on its 36-6 victory.
Following the contest, first-year SHS head coach Cassady Willford was pleased with how his team came together for the win.
“We played well in all-3 aspects of the game,” Willford said. “Our kids were excited. When you’re a senior-driven team, it’s their last first home game, it’s something they’re excited for. We came out and played ball tonight.
“The best thing we did tonight was that we played as a team. They took the talk that they were given this week by our inspirational speaker Mr. Nathan Hale, they brought it together, and played as a team.”
As a team, Southern rushed 18 times for a total of 114 yards, while gaining 113 yards on 8-of-11 passing. The Tornadoes gained 11 first downs, lost their only two fumbles and committed five penalties for a total of 55 yards.
“Penalties killed us,” Willford said. “We left a couple scores on the table, definitely the one that got called back. Just too many penalties and mental mistakes, overall that’s what I think we need to work on the most.”
Offensively, McNickle found paydirt once and had a team-best 99 yards on 12 carries, to go with 37 yards on two receptions. Drummer ran four times and gained 22 yards, while completing 7-of-10 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
Austin Baker caught three passes for 33 yards, Thorla caught two passes for 38 yards and a touchdown, while Dutton caught one five-yard touchdown pass. Gage Shuler completed his only pass attempt for 23 yards.
Notre Dame carried the ball on 60 of its 65 offensive plays, gaining 267 yards. The Titans were 1-for-5 passing, gaining zero yards on the only completion. NDHS earned 14 first downs, kept possession on both of its fumbles, and was penalized four times for 25 yards.
Mader led the Titans with 125 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries. Logan Emnett had 74 yards on 15 totes, Braiden Haney carried the ball 11 times for 64 yards and caught the team’s only pass, while Caleb Nichols ran nine times for a net of four yards and went 1-for-5 through the air.
Southern has now defeated Notre Dame in seven straight meetings, and the Tornadoes have won six consecutive season openers. Friday served as a first as well, with it being the first head coaching victory for Willford.
“I’m glad to get the monkey off of my back,” Willford said. “I’ve never been this nervous in my life, and I’m glad I had this group of kids to lead on the field tonight. I’m super excited, but you can only be excited for about 24 hours, or in my case about 10 hours before I get here in the morning and start working on Federal Hocking.”
Southern will host the Lancers, who fell by a 53-8 count to Alexander in their season opener.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.