GRUNDY CENTER - There is no secret to AGWSR's offense. The Cougars are going to run the ball until opposing defenses stop it.
And then they are going to run some more.
Beginning the game with a 16-play scoring drive in the first quarter and ending it with an 18-play scoring drive in the fourth quarter, AGWSR rushed for 323 yards, scored 29 unanswered points in the first half and beat Grundy Center, 36-13, to open the non-district portion of the 2013 season.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
AGWSR senior Clay Bohner, left, tries to run away from the tackle of Grundy Center sophomore Jordan Graham during both team’s season openers on Friday in Grundy Center. Bohner ran for 57 of the Cougars’ 323 rushing yards during the 36-13 road victory.
"We are who we are," AGWSR coach Skip Eckhardt said. "You know we are going to run the rock. We had faith in our offensive line to get it done."
The Cougars ran off 35 more offensive plays than the Spartans and had no turnovers and just one penalty on the night. Grundy Center also did not turn it over but had eight penalties for 45 yards in the loss.
"The penalties killed us," Grundy Center coach Brent Thoren said. "It's the sign of an inexperienced team that is new. We have a lot of new kids out there. We had some learning experiences tonight."
The Spartans showed some fight early as they scored on their opening drive of the game. Starting at their own 33-yard line, the Spartans converted a third and long when Brock Rohler hit Jordan Clapp for 15 yards through the air. Then Clapp rolled off a 15-yard run and Bryce Moats added five more before Nick Mauer capped the six-play, 67-yard scoring drive with a 31-yard touchdown run.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, those were the final points and the only three first downs of the first half as the Cougar defense settled in.
"They came out and scored on us, which was not the plan," said AGWSR junior Clay Meinders. "We just had to react and decided to get mad and came out even harder and just kept scoring."
AGWSR tied the game on its first possession of the game. The Cougars went 68 yards in 16 plays with 15 of those coming on the ground.
The only pass play of the drive was a 12-yard completion from Cody Williams to Clay Bohner on third-and-8. The snap flew over Williams' head but the junior recovered to hit Bohner near the sideline to keep the drive alive.
The only other play on the drive that produced more than six yards was a Meinders' 16-yard scamper. Levi Stockdale capped off the scoring drive with a 1-yard plunge.
"Athletes make plays and that was an athletic play," said Eckhardt about the Williams pass competion on third-and-8. "Not everything goes the way you want it to."
Stockdale added another 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and finished with 42 yards on 16 carries. Meinders put the Cougars up 14-7 in the second quarter with a 31-yard touchdown run and finished with 119 yards on 20 carries.
"Our line did a great job tonight," Meinders said. "There were plays where they didn't quite get their guy but they also had lots of plays where they did get their guy and that led to big plays. The line did a great job for sure."
Williams and Bohner also each carried it more than 10 times and compiled 75 and 57 yards, respectively. Williams added a 25-yard touchdown pass to Austin Heitland in the second quarter to give the Cougars a 29-7 lead at halftime.
The Spartans regained some momentum early in the third quarter when they forced the Cougars into their first punt of the game on the opening series of the second half.
Grundy Center (0-1) then took advantage, scoring in just three plays. Mauer's 3-yard run opened up the possession before Moats' 22-yard run got the Spartans in business and Mauer finished it off with his second score of the game, this time from 23 yards out.
"We've got some kids who can make plays," said Thoren. "We just got to make sure we are doing our job up front. The biggest thing tonight is we got a lot of experience tonight in a non-district game against a really good team."
Moats had 66 yards on seven carries, while Mauer added 60 yards on eight carries. The Spartans though gained just 188 yards in 40 plays on the night.
"We were right there. We left a lot of plays on the field, but give their defense credit," Thoren said. "They were coming after us pretty hard. We just didn't make enough plays. We couldn't sustain very many drives."
As fast as Grundy Center took back the momentum, the Cougars (1-0) regained the advantage just as fast.
AGWSR began its final possession of the third quarter from its own 22-yard line. That didn't matter much though as the Cougars finished off the victory with an 18-play, 78-yard drive to make it 36-13.
Williams attemted just two passes - both incompletions - on the drive and Grundy Center helped out the cause with three offside penalties. The rest of the damage was done in the trenches and on the ground as Meinders, Williams and Bohner wore down the young Spartan defense with one final scoring drive that was capped off by Williams' 2-yard TD run.
"It's what we expected," Eckhardt said of the dominant run game. "They have been working in the weight room for the past two years. That is why they are physical. They get after it. That's what we want to do."
Williams was 3-for-9 for 46 yards through the air. ... Brock Rohler completed seven of his 17 passes for 65 yards. His favorite targets were Clapp and Lane Bangasser, who both caught two passes for 21 and 18 yards, respectively. ... Grundy Center's all-state lineman Brady Hook injured his knee in the second half. Thoren said he was told it was just a sprain. Several other Spartans went down in the game, but it appeared they just suffered from cramping due to the heat. ... AGWSR will try to move to 2-0 next week when it takes on BCLUW in its home opener on Friday. BCLUW (1-0) beat East Marshall, 42-13, to open its season. Grundy Center stays home next week and will try to put a mark in the win column against Dike-New Hartford. Both games start at 7 p.m. ... Eckhardt was happy with just the one turnover but wanted more forced turnovers from his defense. "Our goal was no more than 15 yards in penalties," he said. "We didn't get any turnovers, which is very sad. We plan to get three turnovers every game. We had opportunities for some. But we need to work on turnovers, tackling and just work to sharpen things up."