WOLCOTT — Give me something.
Give us something we can hang our hat on.
The words weren’t spoken, but one could sense it in Tri-County head coach Mark Gretencord’s body language, see it on his face. The first-year football coach saw his team come up short on its first extended drive of the game against Carroll, and a young, inexperienced Cavaliers squad needed something to go right.
Enter a spark, from Payton Stark.
Facing third-and12 at the Panthers’ 21, the sophomore running back took the modified handoff from classmate Korbin Lawson and ran toward the right side. The side quickly became overwhelmed, and Stark turned to his left.
He saw daylight, and took off. Running diagonally upfield, Stark eventually crossed into the end zone three steps from the near-side pylon with 3 minutes, 4 seconds left in the contest. Stark’s first varsity touchdown took the goose egg off the scoreboard in a game the visitors’ won, 33-6.
“I thought our line did a good job of blocking, and he made a nice cutback,” Gretencord said. “That’s something we absolutely needed to come away with.”
The drive covered 80 yards, with Logan Schneidt’s ground-chewing 40-yard burst on second-and-4 from the Tri-County 41 as a catalyst. Looming large, too, was a third-and-12 screen pass from Lawson to Stark to earn a first down and keep the drive alive.
“Logan had some big yardage getting us down to that point,” Gretencord said. “And that screen pass got us out of trouble.
‘We did some good things tonight at times, but the name of the game is turnovers, and we turned it over three times. That gave them the advantage, and they took advantage of it.”
Not much else went Tri-County’s way as the Panthers extended their win streak over the Cavaliers to eight games running. Gretencord — the school’s head basketball coach who added football to his duties — and his staff spent much of the game cautioning his players to not get too frustrated, to keep calm in the face of the host program being much younger and inexperienced than last year’s club. Ten underclassmen are on the Cavaliers’ 22-man roster, with just five seniors.
Prior to the touchdown, Tri-County had two solid shots at the end zone, both facing a 20-0 deficit.
In the second quarter, a botched punt snap gave the Cavaliers the ball at Carroll’s 40 with 1:35 before halftime. Lawson found Bradley Reynolds for 10 yards the get near the red zone, then found him again for 17 and a goal-to-go marking at the 9-yard line.
His third attempt at hitting the junior wide receiver was picked off at the 2-yard line, and Cohen Ayres ran it back 28 yards to end the threat.
A drive in the third chewed up 4 minutes of game clock, but stalled with a fourth-and-2 2-yard loss as Schneidt couldn’t find room to break out. That drive began on Tri-County’s 9 and gained 51 yards before being stopped. Schneidt ran for 35 yards and Stark ran for 16 on the drive.
“We’re a young team (and) a lot of kids got some valuable experience tonight,” Gretencord said. “Hopefully our kids can build on this, and we can fix some of our mistakes and get better and improve as a team.”
Schneidt ran for 100 yards and Stark collected 50. Lawson was 7-of-12 for 61 yards, but threw three interceptions. Reynolds caught four passes for 52 yards and Stark grabbed two for 19.
Tri-County collected 189 yards, but allowed 236. They also committed nine penalties for more than 100 yards, with at least three of them being personal fouls.
“We weren’t very disciplined tonight,” the coach said. “We had too many false starts, and personal fouls or late hits. That’s something that’s correctable, though. ”