THAYER 20, MALDEN 53
The Thayer Bobcats have seen their share of dynamic running backs over the course of the last couple of years.
Marionville's Lee Flood.
Houston's Craig O'Neal.
Ava's Chance Dry.
However, it's probably safe to say the Cats had yet to see a three-headed monster like the one they encountered Sept. 15 in their long road trip to Malden.
Riding a trio of strong and speedy backs, the Malden Greenwave handed Thayer a 53-20 setback, the Bobcats' first loss of the year.
The Greenwave backfield of Kaliem Reed, Trey Porter and Ryan Krigler was just too much for the Bobcats (2-1) to overcome, as Malden (3-0) grabbed the lead early and refused to allow Thayer any breathing room. Not only was the Reed-Porter-Krigler monster stout, it was also elusive, as the Bobcats found out from the game's outset.
By the end of the night, the Greenwave had rolled out nearly 500 yards of offense, including 216 on the ground from Porter.
Malden put the first points on the board with a 75-yard touchdown drive on its first offensive series of the game.
The Greenwave had a first-and-goal from the Bobcat 5-yard line, but good defense by Thayer kept Malden out of the end zone on three straight running plays.
Play number four, however, was the charm, with Porter crossing the goal line on fourth down at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter. The PAT was good, giving the Greenwave a 7-0 lead.
This marked the first time in three games that Thayer had trailed this year.
The Cats got the ball to midfield on their next series, but looking at a fourth-and-11, elected to punt. Bobcat punter Michael Lowther got the kick off, but four Greenwave defenders knocked him to the turf, drawing a roughing-the-kicker flag to give Thayer a fresh set of downs.
The Bobcats drove the ball to the Greenwave 15-yard line early inside the start of the second quarter, but on fourth-and-13 from the 15, Lowther (106 yards rushing) was dragged down at the 5, turning the ball over to Malden.
This horrible field position didn't deter Malden. Porter simply ripped off a 74-yard TD run a couple of snaps later. The extra-point gave the Greenwave a 14-0 lead with 7:36 left until the half.
The Bobcats responded to this deficit in a positive fashion.
On their next series from scrimmage, Lowther notched a 34-yard run that took the football to the Malden 22-yard line.
Next up, it was Tyler Bonds' turn.
Bonds carried the rock on the next three snaps, the last one a 10-yard touchdown run for Thayer's first points of the evening. Jason White's PAT was blocked, but the Cats had clawed back into the game, down 14-6 with 6:03 left on the second-quarter clock.
As positive as this was for Thayer, the next six minutes of play were any but, as the Greenwave posted two more scores before the half.
Reed broke free for a 66-yard TD run at the 5:15 mark, and then with less than a minute showing on the clock, the Greenwave went to the air for the first time on the night.
Malden quarterback Tim Gage hit Andy Matthews with a 16-yard TD pass, marking only the third time in the first two quarters that the Greenwave didn't run the ball. The 2-point try was stopped, but Malden held a 27-6 advantage at intermission.
The Greenwave extended this lead at the 9:56 point of the third, as Krigler shook loose for a 41-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, boosting Malden's lead to 34-6.
Once again, the Bobcats responded like they meant business.
Using their most impressive drive of the contest, the Cats marched downfield for their first points of the second half.
Lowther picked up an important first down on fourth-and-1 from the Malden 20, and quarterback Jacob Eckman finished the deal with a nice bootleg run behind a big block from Scott Hargus. Eckman's 16-yard TD scamper gave the Bobcats a ray of hope, as they trailed Malden 34-12.
Trying to build on this hope, Thayer attempted an onside kick to keep the momentum.
Malden, however, recovered the football at its own 47, and two plays later, Reed had posted a 17-yard touchdown run, following a 47-yard burst from Porter, that stole back the momentum from the Bobcats. The PAT was good and Malden led 41-12 with six minutes left in the third.
Krigler then recorded his second touchdown run of the frame on a 32-yard run with 33 ticks left in the third.
Trailing 47-12 after three, the Bobcats looked like they would post a score to start the fourth quarter.
Thayer got the football all the way to the Greenwave 7-yard line, but on first-and-goal, the Bobcats fumbled the ball and Malden recovered to snuff out the potential score.
A couple of snaps later, Malden's Nick Perkins ran 85 yards up the middle of the field for the Greenwave's eighth touchdown of the night, pushing them in front 53-12 with 2:02 left in the game.
The Bobcats did get one final TD in Malden, on a big 43-yard run from Josh Huckabee with 11 seconds left to play. Huckabee also carried the 2-point conversion in, setting the final score at 53-20, Malden.
Thayer will look to bounce back Sept. 22 with the second game of its four-game road trip, this one a date with the Mountain View/Birch Tree Liberty Eagles.