RENSSELAER — West Lafayette ripped the joy out of homecoming for Rensselaer Central’s players Friday night at RCHS’s Harrison Sports Complex.
The Class 3A No. 1 ranked Red Devils used a 27-point first quarter and scored on their first six possessions in the first half to cruise to a 48-14 Hoosier Conference West Division victory.
The Bombers (3-2, 1-1 in the HC) had difficulty controlling the more athletic Red Devils, who improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in league play.
Westside used a 12-play, 70-yard drive on its first possession of the game, getting a 5-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback Max Mullis with 8:39 left in the first quarter. A missed extra-point kick had the Bombers looking at a 6-0 deficit.
The big play of the opening drive came on a fourth-and-5 call with the Red Devils inside Rensselaer territory. Mullis would find wide receiver Wyatt Curl for a 23-yard gain to put the ball at the Bomber 16-yard line.
Three plays later, Westside would get its first score.
The Red Devils needed just three plays to score on their next possession, with Mullis finding Liam Burton on a 50-yard pass play with 6:38 left. Mullis hit Burton on an 8-yard slant and Burton raced down the sidelines for the touchdown.
A kickoff return of 91 yards by senior Avary Reyes did pull the Bombers within a score at 13-7, but the Red Devils got a Mullis 25-yard TD pass to Burton with 4:23 showing and added a fumble return for a score after Bomber running back Aaron Barko had the ball dislodged from his arms with 2:20 left in the quarter for a 27-7 lead.
Westside would score twice more in the second period, with Mullis running the ball in from two yards out with 10:10 showing until halftime and Mullis hitting wide-out Cooper Kitchell for a 10-yard score at the 5:59 mark for a 41-7 lead.
Bombers coach Chris Meeks said it was difficult to prepare for Westside’s uptempo style and athleticism.
“How do you simulate the athletes, that offense, that defense in practice? And their team speed?” he said. “There are things we could have done better that we practiced throughout the week, but I think there’s a big difference between practicing against our JV squad and playing the No. 1 team in the state with their athletes.”
After the Bombers were held to a three-and-out to start the second half, the Red Devils would score again on another Mullis TD pass from three yards, giving his team a 48-7 lead. With the score, the game was played under a running clock since the deficit facing the Bombers was more than 35 points.
Kadyn Rowland’s 3-yard TD run late in the third quarter was Rensselaer’s only offensive score of the game. The team’s top rusher, Rowland was held under 25 yards in the game.
RCHS sophomore quarterback Corbin Mathew led the team with 65 yards rushing, most of those coming in the second half. The Bombers also got a nice second-half rushing performance from senior Elias McAdow.
The Bombers will look for a bounce-back effort Friday night when they travel to Lafayette Central Catholic, which beat Tipton Friday. LCC is another strong athletic squad.
“I said since day one, we’re going to stay positive, we’re going to stay upbeat and we’re going to go through some growing pains,” Meeks said.
“They punched us in the teeth tonight, but I think we’ll grow and learn from it.”
West Lafayette will return home to face Benton Central, which got a surprising 13-6 win over Twin Lakes Friday night.
In other games Friday, Kankakee Valley won its fourth straight with a 30-14 win over Northwest Crossroads Conference foe Munster. It was the league opener for the Kougars.
North Newton remained winless with a 42-0 loss at West Central and South Newton blanked Tri-County, 36-0, to improve to 4-1 and 2-0 in Midwest Conference play.