Location: Bernlohr Stadium (Columbus, OH)
The Lions traveled north about two hours on I-71 to Columbus, Ohio to take on the Crusaders of Capital University on Saturday. And they would travel home a few hours later with a 1-0 record and Head Coach Tyler Hopperton's first career win. The Lions capitalized on four Crusader turnovers to overcome a somewhat sluggish offensive effort to get the win.
How It Happened:
The Lions won the opening coin flip for the game and elected to put their prolific offense on the field to start the 2017 campaign. That decision would not pay immediate dividends as on the third play from scrimmage Chaiten Tomlin's (Mt. Orab, OH/ Western Brown) second pass of the season was picked off. It would be Tomlin's only true mistake of the game.
The Lions defense took the field after the turnover and was up to the task forcing a quick three-and-out getting the ball back to the offense. The offense would not disappoint on the second drive, taking the ball and marching down the field to score the first touchdown of the season. They were aided on the drive by two big penalties by Capital which helped to set up an 8 yard touchdown run by Tomlin.
The teams would exchange three-and-outs on the next two possessions. On Capital's third possession of the game they would finally find a rhythm offensively, as they took advantage of good field position to drive for their first score of the game. With Thomas Wiebbler finding Conner McCloud for a nine yard touchdown.
Capital would again find the endzone on their next possession to take a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. The Mount would begin to regain their rhythm on their next possession as they went on a lengthy 15 play drive. On the drive the converted three long 3rd downs and a 4th and 9, which led to a Jerry Porter (Cincinnati, OH/ Elder) field goal.
The Lions had cut the lead to 14-10 with 3:36 to play in the first half, and were poised to go into the half trailing by only four. Thats when maybe the games most pivotal play happened. Wiebbler hit David Barnett for a nice 17 yard pass, but Tavon Robertson (Louisville, KY/ Ballard) delivered a monster hit to force a fumble, which he covered up to give the Lions the ball back. The offense would strike quickly as Tomlin connected with DJ Martin (Cincinnati, OH/ Northwest) for a 35 yard touchdown pass, giving the Lions a 17-14. They would take that lead into the break.
The Crusaders would get the ball to open the second half, the Lions defense would continue the momentum forcing a pair of punts on the first two drives of the second half. The Mount got the ball back on the Capital 45 yard line after a bad punt by the Crusaders. They would take advantage of the outstanding field position by quickly adding to their lead with another Tomlin rushing touchdown.
The Lions would force another punt with 6:43 to play in the third and would get a huge play on special teams by Gavin Edmondson (Perry, GA/ Westfield) . Edmondson raced around the left side to block a punt, setting the Lions up with the ball at the Capital 34 yard line. The Lions would take immediate advantage of the miscue, as on the first play Tomlin found Kendal Sprowl (Indianapolis, IN/ Pike) pushing the Lions lead to 31-21.
Nykwuan Presswood (Cincinnati, OH/ Taft) added a 22 yard touchdown run late in the 4th quarter to put the final touches on the Lions win.
Offensively the Lions were led by Tomlin who while not overly efficient did enough to lead the Lions to victory, with four total touchdowns (2 rushing, 2 passing). Presswood led the ground attack with 87 yards on 20 attempts and a touchdown. Martin was the top target on for Tomlin as he hauled in two balls for 64 yards and a score.
On the defensive side of the ball there were many standouts Edmondson led the team with 11 total tackles and the blocked punt. Colby Webb (Huntington, WV/ Spring Valley) added nine tackles from the linebacker spot. The starting cornerbacks both had monster games for the Lions Tyler Hannah (Cincinnati, OH/ Summit Country Day) contributed seven tackles and an interception, and Robertson added six tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and five pass breakups.
In this game the Lions honored a special person with the game ball. First year Head Coach Tyler Hopperton was greeted with a gatorade bath and the game ball for his first career victory.
The Lions (1-0) will return home to take on DePauw next Saturday, with the game scheduled to kickoff at 6:30 PM at Schueler Field.