RACINE, Ohio — In order to be successful, your defense has to be able to get off the field on third and fourth down.
The Frontier converted 6-of-10 third downs and 2-of-3 fourth downs Friday night, en route to a 30-20 victory over non-conference host Southern. All five of the Cougars touchdowns at Roger Lee Adams Memorial Football Field were scored on third or fourth down.
The Cougars (1-1) began their first drive on their own 41 yard line and took eight plays to find the endzone. FHS quarterback Damon Metheney called his own number on third down from two yards out found the paydirt with 9:02 remaining in the first quarter. Frontier’s two-point conversion run failed, however, keeping the Cougars lead at 6-0.
Southern’s (1-1) first drive of the game — which began on the SHS 34-yard line — looked to be stopped short with the Purple and Gold facing a fourth-and-10, but a 25-yard pass completion from Blake Johnson to Tommy Ramthun kept the drive alive. Johnson found Clayton Wood for a five-yard scoring pass on the next play, and after Ramthun’s extra point, gave the Tornadoes a 7-6 advantage with 5:54 remaining in the first quarter.
Frontier converted a pair of third downs to keep the ensuing drive alive, but faced a fourth-and-goal from the 14-yard line to begin the second quarter. Metheney found Nick Camino in the back left corner of the endzone on the fourth down play, giving the Blue and Gold a 12-7 lead.
With 11:56 remaining in the second quarter the teams returned to the locker rooms for a lengthy lightning delay.
Southern was forced into a three-and-out on the first drive after the delay, but a fumbled punt return was picked up by SHS sophomore Dylan Smith. The Cougars, however, forced a turnover on downs and took over at their own 21-yard line.
On the fourth play of the FHS drive Southern senior Joe Beegle recovered a fumble, but Frontier got the ball back on the next play, as Southern fumbled the ball away. A 28-yard run by Metheney set FHS up in Tornado territory, and three plays later it was first and goal from the seven. A holding call pushed Frontier back to the 16-yard line, but a second down completion set the ball back on the seven yard line. Metheney found some more third down magic, scrambling through the Tornado defense for six points.
Trailing 18-7, Southern began it’s next drive just on the Tornado side of midfield with under two minutes until halftime. Back-to-back pass completions by Johnson set Southern up on the FHS 32-yard line, which is where Smith completed a halfback pass to Ramthun for six points. Ramthun added the point after and pulled the Purple and Gold withing four points at halftime.
After Camino intercepted a SHS pass to on the third play of the second half, Frontier marched into Southern territory with three straight runs. The Cougars were faced with a third-and-13 from the 43-yard line, when Metheney threw a screen pass to Derrick Heddleson, who ran down the Southern sideline for six points. The two-point attempt again failed, but Frontier pushed its lead to 24-14.
The Tornadoes converted twice on third down on their next possession, but a block in the back penalty and a botched snap helped the FHS defense to record a turnover on downs.
Frontier’s next drive appeared to be stopped, as the Cougars were facing a fourth-and-nine on the Tornado 41, but Metheney scrambled all the way for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, giving FHS the 30-14 advantage.
In a must score situation, Southern answered, driving the ball 67 yards on 10 plays on the ensuing drive, which was capped off when Johnson ran the ball in from three yards away. The Tornadoes’ two-point conversion pass, which would have made it a one possession game, failed and Southern trailed 30-20.
The Tornado defense forced a turnover on downs on just four plays, regaining possession on the FHS 47-yard line with six minutes remaining in regulation. A pass interference call against Frontier set the Purple and Gold up at the FHS 12-yard line, but two incomplete passes followed by two rushes came up just shy of the first down marker.
After three plays Frontier was forced to punt for the first time in the game, and Southern took over on the FHS 33 with under two minutes remaining. Southern managed a quick first down, but the Cougars forced an incompletion on fourth-and-four, sealing the 30-20 victory.
“We fought all the way through, but we continue to have bad plays here and there,” Southern head coach Kyle Wickline said. “We had way to many missed tackles, we have to execute on the defense side, we have to execute on the offensive side and hopefully we get better.”
Johnson led the Southern offense with 162 yards on 15-of-29 passing with a touchdown and an interception, while gaining 43 yards on 13 carries with a score. Smith pulled in six receptions for 94 yards, while rushing 10 times for four yards and passing for 32 yards and a touchdown on his only pass attempt.
Ramthun caught two passes for 37 yards and a score, while making both extra point attempts. Crenson Rogers caught three passes for 23 yards, while Wood grabbed three passes for 22 yards and a score. Kody Greene finished with 20 yards on two receptions and five yards on four rushes, while Riley Roush added 15 yards on four carries.
Greene and Beegle led the Purple and Gold defense with nine tackles apiece, followed by Smith and Wood with seven apiece.
Metheney — who was 4-of-7 passing for 80 yards and two touchdowns — led all ball carries with 135 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns. Heddleston marked 66 yards on 13 carries, while catching one pass for 43 yards and a score. Calvin Valentine ran 11 times for 59 yards. while Zane Lamp had 16 yards on five catches. Camino hauled in two passes for 23 yards, while Wyatt Smith caught one pass for 14 yards.
Frontier marked 14 first downs, just one more than the Tornadoes, but the Cougars held a 354-to-261 advantage in total offense. FHS was setback 80 yards on eight penalities, while Southern was sent back twice for a total of 20 yards. The Cougars lost both fumbles they committed, while SHS committed four fumbles and lost one.
The Purple and Gold will remain home next week as Wahama visits Roger Lee Adams Memorial Football Field.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.
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