A win on the road to start the season can jumpstart the fortunes of a high school football team.
The Thayer Bobcats hope their 22-8 season opening victory over the Salem Greyhounds Sept. 6 has that kind of effect for them.
Looking very much like the big, physical team they are, the Bobcats took control of the game early behind stout line play and a pair of senior playmakers.
After missing a number of games last year due to injury, senior Bobcat quarterback Tim Eckman proved he was as good as new by completing 10 of 17 passes for 191 yards.
The recipient of most of Eckman's darts was senior wideout Matt Martin, an All-District selection from last year.
Martin appears headed for similar honors this season as he snared six balls for 135 yards against the Greyhounds.
"We came out and established some momentum early with a long drive to start the game," said Bobcat Head Coach Billy Webber. "Our offensive line started out strong."
By dominating the line of scrimmage, Thayer limited the Greyhounds to 44 yards of total offense in the first half.
The Bobcats took the opening kickoff and used a steady dose of the running game behind senior Kyle Goetting to march down the field and set up shop at the Salem 20-yard line.
"Our kids did well on the offensive line to open the game. Salem kind of crossed us up. We practiced all week for the 4-4 defense, but they came out in a 5-3 and we adjusted well," said Coach Webber.
The eight-play drive ended with the Bobcats finding the end zone on a 20-yard pass from Tim Eckman to Matt Martin at the 7:05 point of the first quarter.
The Greyhounds appeared out of snyc on their first possession of the game as they turned the ball over to Thayer on the second play from scrimmage.
The Bobcat defense left the door open for the Greyhounds in the second quarter by being whistled for three offsides penalties, including two back-to-back.
The Greyhounds failed to take advantage of these penalties by putting together a long drive.
The Bobcats held Salem to 44 yards of total offense in the first half, all on the ground. Greyhound quarterback Luke Barker was 0-5 through the air.
With the ball in their possession and 1:45 until the half, the Bobcats offense geared up for another score.
Starting at the Greyhound 45-yard line, the Bobcats headed downfield until a screen pass to senior Paul Brewer was snuffed out for a no-gain at the Greyhound 11-yard line.
Faced with a fourth-and-one, the Bobcats opted to run a play instead of settling for a short field goal.
This worked perfectly as Matt Martin took the handoff on a reverse from his wideout slot and scrambled 11 yards for his second touchdown of the evening with 15.3 on the clock.
The Bobcat quarterback punched the ball in for a two-point conversion to put Thayer in front 15-0 at the half.
The Greyhounds came out after halftime and stuck to their game plan of running the ball.
Greyhound senior Jamie Sisk was the workhorse, as he accounted for 77 of his team's rushing yards.
A pass from Luke Barker to senior Brian Grass put the ball at the Bobcat 26-yard line midway into the third quarter.
The Bobcat defense stiffened on the next play from scrimmage as senior lineman Josh Eubank popped the ball loose from Barker as he tried to set up the option play.
"We played pretty well on defense," said Coach Webber. "We bent some and gave up some yards, but we didn't break."
This turnover set up the Bobcat's third score of the night as senior Josh Garrison rambled in fom 5 yards out to put Thayer up 22-0 after three quarters.
Garrison led the Thayer ground attack with 52 yards rushing.
The last quarter began with the Greyhounds fashioning their best-looking offensive series of the game.
A 13-play drive took the Greyhounds down to the Bobcat 23-yard line at the 8:23 mark.
An incomplete pass from Barker to senior Joey Burk on fourth-and-five stalled the drive and gave the ball back to the Bobcats deep in their own territory.
The Greyhounds finally got their first taste of the end zone with six seconds left in the game as senior Woody Harlow caught a swing pass out of the backfield and scampered 17 yards for the T.D.
Harlow took a quick-pitch from Barker across for the two-point conversion and a final score of 22-8, Thayer.
"We were pretty happy with our effort on defense. We kept them out of the end zone until late," said Coach Webber.
The Greyhounds finished the evening with 225 yards of total offense, 134 on the ground, while the Bobcats ended with 372 yards of offense with 177 coming on the ground.
"This will help us get ready for Houston. They have a big team like Salem's and favor a power game also," said Coach Webber.
The Bobcats take on Houston at home on Sept. 13. Game time is 7 p.m.
Matt Martin was selected by the Thayer coaching staff as the offensive player of the game and hitman for the week for his play in the Salem game.
The defensive player of the week, as selected by the Thayer coaching staff, was Josh Eubanks who registered one solo and eight assisted tackles and also had two fumble recoveries.
Jared Gaines, Brett Cotham, Cody Hollis and Carl Hunter were also sited by the coaches as making big contributions on defense.