When the ferocious hits kept coming, Garden Plain’s defense pushed harder to extract the will from another opponent, this time Cheney on Friday night.
In the first quarter alone, the Cardinals lost their quarterback and running back to injuries from crunching tackles by the Owls. But Cheney never tapped out, even if it was stubborn to attempt to take on Garden Plain’s defense head-on.
Slowly Garden Plain, No. 4 in Class 3A, distanced itself for a 34-12 victory to improve to 5-0 on the season, but it needed the fourth quarter for the first time all season to do it.
“It’s hit ’em-first football over here at Garden Plain,” said linebacker Ethan Balestracci, who doubled as a menacing fullback that scored three times on Friday. “We unleash ourselves on ‘D.’ On offense, you gotta be more secure. But on defense, it’s a whole other game.”
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Cheney wanted to establish its ground game, but outside of a 41-yard run, it could only produce 81 yards on the other 36 carries.
Yet, the Cardinals were within 21-12 entering the final quarter.
Garden Plain would point to the eight penalties for 70 yards and three lost fumbles in the first half. But Owls coach Brad McCormick wouldn’t deny that Cheney held its own.
“Our kids showed tonight that they have a lot of heart and they believe in Cheney, in the community team and in our football team,” Cheney coach Cory Brack said.
In the first four games of the season, Garden Plain outscored its opponents 228-58 and its starters didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Their debut was stellar.
Garden Plain quarterback Caleb Arnold orchestrated an option attack to perfection, knowing when to keep it (90 rushing yards), pitch it to Dylan Clark (56) or put it in the belly of Denver Doyle (193) or Balestracci (38). The Owls finished with 428 total yards.
“It was good to have a game going into the fourth quarter,” said Doyle, who scored twice. “We’re going to have to do that later in the season and coach has us conditioned enough where we can do that.”
Doyle and Balestracci combined to score all five touchdowns for the Owls and were the linebackers on the other side of the ball doling out much of the punishment.
Cheney proved tough enough to pick itself back up, but those ice packs next week will serve as a reminder of Garden Plain’s defense.
“We take pride in being tough and fast to the ball,” McCormick said. “We don’t always tell them to look for the hit, but that’s just the way kids are.”
|Garden Plain (5-0)||7||7||7||13||—||34|
GP—Balestracci 2 run (Tr. Puetz kick)
GP—Balestracci 5 run (Tr. Puetz kick)
C—Hill 6 run (McGuffey kick miss)
GP—Doyle 76 run (Tr. Puetz kick)
C—Hill 49 pass from Martin (Hill run failed)
GP—Balestracci 4 run (Tr. Puetz kick)
GP—Doyle 21 run (Hoheisel run failed)
Rushing—Garden Plain, Doyle 17-193, Arnold 12-90, Clark 11-56, Balestracci 7-38; Cheney, Hill 17-88, Martin 7-26, Trego 8-13, Price 5-(-5).
Passing—Garden Plain, Arnold 3-6-0-51; Cheney, Martin 7-15-3-126, Hageman 2-4-1-26, Hill 0-1-0-0.
Receiving—Garden Plain, Doyle 1-22, Schumacher 1-22, Balestracci 1-7; Cheney, Harbour-Nordhal 4-66, Hill 2-62, Higgins 1-13, Giefer 2-11.