HIGHLAND | Long runs into the end zone were the flavor of the night as the Highland Trojans picked up a 33-13 win in a season-opening rematch against the visiting Lake Station Eagles.
The two teams combined for 209 yards of touchdown runs in the contest. The only touchdown pass of the game – on fourth and goal for Lake Station – went for 15 yards.
After shutting the Eagles out 25-0 to open the 2012 season, Highland faced a tougher challenge on Friday night, but took advantage of a 63-yard touchdown run by quarterback Hunter Rycerz and scoring runs of 22 and 43 yards by Ian Hardy en route to the win.
Rycerz’s scramble opened the scoring but Hardy proved to be the difference as his 43-yard rush in closing minutes of the first half made it 18-13 and put the Trojans up for good.
“We did some growing up tonight. We've got to do some work; there’s a lot of things we've got to still work on, but we beat a team by 20,” head coach Trent Grider said. “We're better than we played tonight, there’s no question about it.”
The Eagles had countered Rycerz's run on Robert Fazekas' 15-yard touchdown pass to Mylano Quinones. Lake Station then responded to Hardy's first score when Kyle Gooch broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run to put the Eagles ahead 13-12.
Less than two minutes later, Hardy ran in from 43 yards out. Rycerz’s pass to the corner of the end zone was knocked down as time expired in the first half.
With 8:31 left in the fourth quarter, Hardy gave the Trojans some breathing room with a 1-yard touchdown run before successfully running in the two-point conversion attempt, putting Highland up 26-13.
Sean McQuillan put the game away with a 25-yard touchdown run with four minutes to go in the game.
Even some of the rushing plays that didn't go for touchdowns were impressive as Quinones broke one off for 64 yards and McQuillan went for 28 and 21 yards on non-scoring plays.
“We should've been able to do more things that we did,” Grider said. “We've got to go back to the drawing board, but we'll be OK.”