RENSSELAER — Known for a grinding offensive style, Rensselaer Central put its big play potential on display Friday against Twin Lakes.
The Bombers had three scoring plays cover 66 or more yards in the first half, built a 28-0 lead by halftime and cruised to a 35-0 victory over the Indians in Hoosier Conference action.
Senior quarterback Eli Hickman riddled the Indians’ defense with precision passing. He was 6 of 8 passing for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
“When your secondary guys are making most of your tackles, that’s usually a sign they’re going to throw the ball deep and they did,” Indians coach Scott Mannering said. “Hickman is a very good quarterback. He runs the ball extremely hard and throws the ball very accurately. And their offensive line was outstanding tonight. They gave us a lot of problem. It was a mismatch.”
Hickman hit sophomore receiver Kelton Hesson on a slant pass that covered 80 yards for a touchdown and found senior receiver Noah Bierma in the end zone twice on TD passes of 36 and 11 yards.
“They were stopping the run and they were going to live and die by stopping the run,” Hickman said. “We thought we saw an opening over the top. I just throw it up and let Noah get it. I trust him a lot.”
“The kid is very composed,” Bombers coach Chris Meeks said of his quarterback. “He has a good arm and he has a nice touch. I thought he had a nice touch on all of his throws tonight. He did a great job of reading the defense and getting the ball where it needed to be.”
Hickman credited his improved offensive line for giving him time to throw.
“They’re our unsung heroes,” he said. “They really do a good job of staying low and getting into their blocks. That gives me time to throw.”
Hickman also ran for a score in the first second quarter, barreling in from four yards out to put his team up 21-0 with 8:32 left in the half.
The score capped the longest scoring drive of the night for the Bombers (4-0, 1-0 in the HC) at 10 plays. Their first two touchdowns came on a total of five plays, including junior running back Addison Wilmington’s 66-yard scoring run with 8:27 left in the first quarter to cap a four-play, 87-yard drive.
Wilmington’s run came just minutes after the Bomber defense held Twin Lakes out of the end zone. Twin Lakes returner Gage Businger took the opening kickoff to the 29-yard line of Rensselaer, but the Indians (1-3, 0-1) had a potential scoring drive stall at the 13-yard line.
The big play was a holding call on a pass play that put the ball inside the Bombers’ 5-yard line. The Indians also had another drive stall at Rensselaer’s 3-yard line late in the third quarter.
Facing a fourth-and-6 at RC’s 6-yard line, senior tailback Jase Greear was stopped after a 3-yard gain.
The Bombers then held the ball for most of the fourth quarter after the game was played with a running clock. According to new IHSAA rules, a running clock must be used when a team has a 35-point lead or more on another in the second half.
The clock can only be stopped for timeouts, injuries and point-after kicks when there is a score.
Once the running clock rule was put in place, the game sped along with the Bombers satisfied with their five scores.
Wilmington finished with 154 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. The Bombers generated 434 yards of offense while allowing just 210 for the Indians.
“If teams want to load up on the run, we feel like we have the athletes to exploit them,” Meeks said. “Give credit to our line, too. They gave (Hickman) enough time to pass tonight and gave our receivers time to get into their routes.”
Twin Lakes did reach the red zone three times on Friday but couldn’t punch in a score.
“That’s been a problem all year,” Mannering said. “We’re the kind of team that doesn’t have a big margin for error so we have to execute really well. When we miss a pass or have a penalty, miss a block, it’s devastating for us.”
Quarterback Danny Bennett connected on 3 of 7 passes for 16 yards for the Indians, who entertain Benton Central for homecoming next week. Fullback Jaylen Roush gained 60 yards on 11 carries.
“Going in defensively we knew it would be a struggle,” Meeks said. “Scott Mannering has some experience over there, especially with their line. They run a very good efficient offense and he does a nice job of reading defenses and finding holes. We knew it would be tough to walk out of here with a ‘W’, but to shut them out, we’re ecstatic.”
RCHS will travel to West Lafayette on Friday looking to pull the upset.