The Alexander Central Cougars just love to run the football, and they sure ran it Friday night – and ran it, and ran it, and ran it and ran it.
The Cougars steamrolled their way to nearly 500 yards on the ground while their defense shut out the McDowell Titans in a 49-0 blowout at Titan Stadium.
Behind a gargantuan and physical offensive line that may as well have been a herd of enraged mastodons, three Cougar ballcarriers eclipsed the 100-yard mark and Central amassed 492 yards as a team, averaging 11 yards per play.
The Cougars (2-2 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference, 6-2 overall) threw it only twice all night. One of those throws was a 2-foot flip to a running back on a jet-sweep “pass” that went for 6 yards. The other was a ball tipped at the line of scrimmage and caught by an offensive lineman for a 3-yard loss on the final play before halftime.
The Titans (1-3, 3-5) had chances to score, but seemed snake-bitten when they got close, with a blocked field goal and a fumble at the Central 9 being two prime examples.
With the exception of one possession, which started with 27 seconds left before halftime, Alexander Central scored every time it touched the ball. Two of the Cougars’ seven scoring drives went 89 yards and another 98.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage,” said McDowell head coach Andy Morgan. “We had some huge injuries early, not that it would have made much of a difference, but (lineman) Walker Hughes goes down and he played a big part last week (48-28 win over South Caldwell). We had to move guys around and play kids at defensive line that had never played it.
“Offensively, we had our chances, but (we had) penalty, bad snap, hold. We went right back to the way it was three weeks ago.”
The Titans were coming off two weeks of impressive offensive numbers, putting up 84 points and 908 yards of offense in outings against St. Stephens and South Caldwell.
Conversely, Central was reeling from back-to-back, lopsided losses against Watauga (35-0) and Freedom (38-6).
Both teams experienced dramatic turnarounds Friday.
The Titans managed only 229 yards of offense and turned the ball over three times. A bad snap on a punt also served as a turnover, giving Central a short field in the first half.
Meanwhile, A.J. Miller rushed for a game-high 125 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries for the Cougars. Fullback Tevin Clark added 115 yards and two scores on 14 attempts. Steven Montgomery rolled up 108 yards and a TD on just six carries. Quarterback Easton Rhoney rushed for 76 yards and a pair of touchdowns on three carries.
McDowell got a solid passing game from Adam Randolph, who was 17-of-24 for 174 yards. Tight end Richard Handy caught five passes for 64 yards. Andruw Randolph snagged four passes for 53 yards. J.C. Olivo rushed for a team-high 71 yards on 18 totes.
But the Titans ended up with nothing to show for it.
“The wheels fell off for us for a couple of weeks, so it was nice to get that back,” said Cougars head coach Butch Carter. “But to the credit of our team and our coaching staff, during that trial, that storm we were under, our team responded to our challenge.”
Alexander Central seized control from the outset. Montgomery broke a sweep for a 52-yard, cut-back touchdown on the third play from scrimmage to cap a 68-yard drive. Oscar Lopez’s point-after made it 7-0 just 1 minute into the game.
After a three-and-out by the Titans, the Cougars drove 60 yards, eventually getting a 6-yard scoring run from Clark. That made it 14-0 with 5:58 to go in the first quarter.
McDowell responded by marching from its own 31 to the Central 8 before the drive stalled. Seth Baird’s 24-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Miller. The Cougars got the ball back on their own 2 and drove 98 yards on eight plays.
Rhoney bounced a quarterback keeper outside and raced easily to the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead, and Alexander Central never looked back.
Rhoney added a 41-yarder later in the second quarter, and Miller had a 29-yard score on a double-reverse after the Titans’ errant punt snap set the Cougars up inside the 30. It was 35-0 at the break.
To its credit, McDowell didn’t quit.
The Titans took the second-half kickoff and rolled to the Central 11 before turning the ball over on downs.
The Cougars responded with an 89-yard march. Clark’s 5-yard touchdown run with 3:53 remaining in the third made it 42-0 and brought the running-clock rule into effect.
The Titans managed one more push in the final quarter, getting to the Cougars’ 9 before fumbling.
“I told them I was proud of them,” said Morgan. “They didn’t stop fighting. We ran the football fairly well in the second half. I hate it for the guys. I hate it for the staff. They prepare like they should and they’ve got huge hearts. It’s just we can’t get over that hump.”
Carter said the Titans’ spread offense with its efficient passing attack was cause for concern coming into the game.
“We knew we wanted to keep it simple and have a nice, simple game plan and not allow our kids to think in coverage because we were blowing coverages,” Carter said. “We simplified things and I think that helped us. We were very concerned about their offense. They went to South Caldwell and played outstanding in every area.”
The Titans will try and bounce back against the first-place Watauga Pioneers (3-0, 7-0) next Friday.
A. Central McDowell
First downs 26 14
Rushes-yds. 43-492 25-55
Passing 2-2 17-24
Passing yds. 3 174
Total yds. 495 229
Return yds. 20 36
Fumbles/lost 2/0 4/3
Penalties-yds. 9-78 6-58
Punts-avg. 0-0 1-27
Central 14 21 07 07 – 49
McDowell 00 00 00 00 – 00
Individual stats: Rushing: AC (A.J. Miller 10-125-TD, Tevin Clark 14-115-2TDs, Steven Montgomery 6-108-TD, Easton Rhoney 3-76-2TDs, Dayente Calhoun 6-44-TD, Daniel Morgan 2-22, Colston Yount 1-5, Team 1-m3) McDowell (J.C. Olivo 18-71, Andruw Randolph 2-9, Adam Randolph 4-4, Team 1-m29) Passing: AC (Rhoney 1-1-0-6 yds., Lance Justice 1-1-0-m3 yds.) McDowell (Adam Randolph 17-24-0-0-174 yds.) Receiving: AC (Miller 1-6, Kaine Allen 1-m3) McDowell (Richard Handy 5-64, J.C. Olivo 5-23, An. Randolph 4-53, Dakota Effler 3-34)
AC – Montgomery 52 run, Oscar Lopez kick (11:00)
AC – Clark 6 run, Lopez kick (5:58)
AC – Rhoney 28 run, Lopez kick (7:30)
AC – Rhoney 41 run, Lopez kick (3:37)
AC – Miller 29 run, Lopez kick (1:32)
AC – Clark 5 run, Jacob Teague kick (3:53)
AC – Calhoun 1 run, Teague kick (1:00)