THAYER 49, FAIR?GROVE 0
After watching the sky above Louis Bozman Stadium explode to life with a dazzling pre-game fireworks display, a display that was certainly worthy of the assembled homecoming royalty and packed-to-the-gills bleachers Oct. 5, the Thayer Bobcats went out on the gridiron and lit the fuse on a Howitzer cannon, one aimed squarely at the Fair Grove Eagles.
Using a thoroughly-dominating effort on both sides of the football, including blocking two punts on special teams and forcing six fumbles on defense, the Cats improved to a perfect 6-0 with a 49-0 dismantling of Fair Grove (4-2).
All this with the high-flying Eagles packing a huge weapon of their own, running back Caleb Shaffitzel.
Heading into the game, Fair Grove's sophomore sensation had been terrorizing opposing defenses, racking up 1,189 yards, 7.6 per carry, along with 12 touchdowns, in the first five weeks of play.
Against a tough-as-nails Thayer defense, though, Schaffitzel would be held to four yards in the first half, 63 total for the night (42 against the Bobcat JV squad long after the outcome had been written in stone), and zero touchdowns.
That folks, is a dominating defense. And that's also a big part of the reason the Bobcats have smashed their way into the ranks of the Class 1 top 10.
Every time Schaffitzel touched the football, it was like a brick wall had fallen on him, as a gang of Thayer defenders shoved him backwards, three and four yards at a push. The monstrous Thayer defense also jarred the football loose from the normally sure-handed Schaffitzel an amazing three times on the night.
And on offense, working with a short field all game long, the Cats piled up 283 yards of total offense, scoring at will.
Michael Lowther, Thayer's big-play machine who had 739 yards rushing (playing mostly just in the first three quarters of Thayer's first five wins), along with 14 TDs heading into homecoming night, was at it again, scoring four times on the night, three by ground, one by air.
But as usual, it was the Bobcat defense that set the tone right out of the gate.
Cameron Carey blocked a Fair Grove punt on fourth-and-17 in the first quarter, with Luke Martin falling on the ball deep in Eagle territory.
A couple of plays later, Lowther started the Thayer juggernaut off by scoring from two yards out on third-and-goal. Ethan Leisenring kicked the PAT and Thayer took a 7-0 lead with 6:37 left in the first.
On Fair Grove's next series, Lowther whacked Schaffitzel like a wrecking ball, forcing him to cough off the pigskin.
The Cats didn't get any points off of that turnover, but on Thayer's next series after holding the Eagles to another three-and-out, Lowther hit paydirt.
Running in from 24 yards out, Lowther (96 yards rushing) gave the Bobcats a two-touchdown lead with 1:27 left in the first. Leisenring's extra-point made it 14-0, Thayer.
Midway into the second quarter, the Bobcats put the game on ice, scoring three touchdowns in a four-and-a-half minute span.
Thayer quarterback Jacob Eckman used a good play-action fake to freeze the Eagle defense before tossing a 19-yard scoring strike to Lowther for Thayer's third TD of the first half. The extra-point missed its mark, but the Bobcats were on top 20-0 at the 5:10 mark.
Then the Bobcat defense got greedy once again.
A bad snap over Fair Grove quarterback's Cam Bruffet forced the QB to pick up the ball and run for his life. Eckman smashed into Bruffet, knocking the ball loose. Tyler Bonds recovered the ball for Thayer and one snap later, Lowther had his fourth touchdown of the evening, this one on a 20-yard scamper behind excellent lead-blocking from Martin, Scott Hargus and Matt Kojdecki. Leisenring's PAT gave the Bobcats a commanding 27-0 advantage over a flock of disheartened Eagles.
But things got worse for the mighty bunch from Fair Grove.
Bonds popped Schaffitzel so hard on Fair Grove's next possession that the ball hit the ground and Thayer fell on it at the Eagle 26-yard line.
After a nice 22-yard pass from Eckman to Kojdecki, Josh Huckabee got on the board with a 4-yard run on second-and-goal to continue Thayer's impressive display in the first half. The PAT extended Thayer's lead to 34-0 at the break.
For the first two quarters of play, Fair Grove managed just one first down, while the Bobcats posted 206 yards of total offense during that same span.
And the Cats had no intentions of resting on their laurels at intermission.
Instead, the green-and-white bottled up Fair Grove on the Eagles' first series of the second half, knocking them backwards to bring up a fourth-and-14.
On the Eagles' punt attempt, Martin broke through and blocked the kick, with Eckman recovering it at the Fair Grove 20.
Eckman then ripped off a slick 15-yard run and Bonds finished things off with a 6-yard TD on first-and-goal. Leisenring's extra-point kick pushed the Bobcats out in front 41-0.
Thayer just kept coming in waves, and on the Eagles' next touch of the ball, Cody Ary came up with the fourth fumble of the game for the Cats, as he hit Schaffitzel with so much force the ball fell from his limp hands.
The Thayer junior varsity came on but a promising drive ended via a turnover deep in Fair Grove territory.
No big deal. The Cats simply just took the ball right back.
Another bad snap went past Bruffet and Nathan Arsenault was all over it, recovering the ball for Thayer.
Justin Shipp got in on the takeaway fun in the fourth, forcing Fair Grove's sixth fumble of the game.
This led to a 10-yard touchdown run from Patrick Sims at the 2:38 mark of the fourth. Leisenring ran the 2-point conversion in to close the book on Thayer's 49-0 shutout of Fair Grove.