THAYER 54, GREENFIELD 35
The Thayer Bobcats and Greenfield Wildcats traveled down two different paths to arrive at a common meeting place, Greenfield, for the opening round of district play.
The Bobcats had just broken a four-game road losing streak the previous week by outpacing the Willow Spring Bears in Thayer. During Thayer's four winless road games, the Cats had given up an average of 33 points an outing while scoring just 17 per game.
By contrast, the Greenfield Wildcats, ranked number four in Class 1 football, spotted a sparkling 7-0 mark heading into their clash with Thayer and were scoring 38 points a game while allowing the opposition just 10 a game.
Sounds like a mismatch, doesn't it?
Like the recipe for a blowout?
As it turns out, it was both. A mismatch and a huge blowout.
Only on this night, it was the Bobcats who had the last chuckle in a laugher of a game, as Thayer poured it on the homestanding Wildcats, blowing the doors off Greenfield 54-35 Oct. 20.
Just as the game really wasn't as close as the 19-point final margin might indicate, the way the two schools had performed in the first seven weeks of the season might be a bit deceiving, as well.
The Bobcats (4-4, 1-0) had run through a gauntlet of bigger Class 2 and 3 teams during the non-conference portion of their slate, while Greenfield (7-1, 0-1) had feasted on a host of Class 1 teams during that same stretch.
At any rate, it was the Bobcats, and their ground game in particular, that did all the munching against the Wildcats.
Michael Lowther had a monster outing in Greenfield, rushing for an eye-popping 287 yards and six touchdowns on 36 carries.
Fullback Tyler Bonds picked up an additional 102 yards on nine totes, running behind the inspired blocking of Big John Barnett, Kris Frillman, Scott Hargus and Nathan Arsenault.
Lowther picked up 207 yards in the first half alone, while Bonds racked up 76 more in the first two quarters.
Although at first, it looked like it might be same song, different verse for the Bobcats and their recent woes on the road.
On the first snap from scrimmage, Wildcat quarterback Travis McDowell ran a counter play up the middle of the field for a 74-yard touchdown scamper just 20 seconds inside the game's start. McDowell than kicked the PAT and boom, Greenfield led 7-0.
However, this wasn't the same group of Bobcats that struggled on the road earlier this season. This group of Cats picked themselves up and marched 75 yards for an answering score on their first possession of the night.
Lowther was the workhorse on this drive, running for 68 yards during the series. Lowther polished things off with a 16-yard TD run on first-and-10 at the 7:09 mark of the first. Thayer quarterback Jacob Eckman carried the 2-point conversion in to give the Bobcats an 8-7 lead. It was a lead they would not hand back to Greenfield.
Zack Ary came up big for the Cats on Greenfield's next touch by hitting Wildcat fullback Andrew Moore so hard he coughed up the ball. Ary recovered it at the Wildcat 37, giving his offense a short field.
Eckman hit Lowther with a nice pass that took the ball to the Greenfield 14, and one play later, Eckman hooked up with Hargus on a 14-yard TD pass. The 2-point try was denied, but with 3:25 left in the first, Thayer had pushed on top 14-7.
On Thayer's next series after a Wildcat punt, Bonds set up the Bobcats next points with a big 44-yard run that ended at the Greenfield 9-yard line.
Lowther took the matter into his own hands after that by crossing the goal line from 14 yards out with 2:07 left in the first, extending Thayer's lead to 20-7 over the stunned group of Wildcats.
Despite the big numbers the Bobcats up on the offensive side of the football, the defense by no means took a backseat in Greenfield.
It looked like the Wildcats were primed for a certain score early in the second, staked with a fourth-and-2 from the Thayer 11-yard line.
Instead, Zack Ary and Eckman got in McDowell's face, forcing him to throw an incomplete pass, giving the Bobcats the ball 89 yards away from the Wildcat end zone.
This distance wasn't too far, as Thayer ripped off a nice 10-play drive, one that was aided by a 15-yard late hit penalty on Greenfield.
On third-and-4 from the Greenfield 4, Lowther busted free for his third TD of the first half. Jason White booted the point after, and with 6:31 left until the half, the Cats were in firm control with a 27-7 advantage.
Or so it seemed.
Greenfield's Alex Morris took the ensuing kickoff and ran it back 79 yards for a touchdown just seconds later. The PAT was no good, but Greenfield had pulled closer, down 27-13.
It was simply Lowther time once again.
The junior running back hit the after-burners and went for a 68-yard touchdown blast on Thayer's next series from scrimmage. The point-after try was denied, but the Bobcats went to the half with a 33-13 lead on their side.
The Bobcats' offensive assault took a momentary breather in the third quarter, with the Wildcats logging the only points of the frame.
With 8:30 left on the third-quarter clock, McDowell hooked up with Alex Berry for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Berry also caught the 2-point conversion toss from McDowell and the two sides went to the fourth quarter with Thayer on top 33-21.
While Greenfield did manage to make things interesting in the fourth, the Bobcats shut the door on the Wildcats with three more touchdowns.
Finishing off a lengthy drive that started in the third, Thayer got a 1-yard touchdown run from Lowther just five seconds inside the start of the fourth. Eckman ran in the 2-pointer, and Thayer had doubled Greenfield 41-21.
The Wildcats didn't spin their wheels any on their next series.
Using two plays, including a 39-yard pass from McDowell to Berry, the Wildcats hit paydirt. With the ball at the Thayer 3, McDowell used a quarterback keeper for his team's next points at the 10:50 mark. He also ran in the 2-point conversion and Greenfield trailed 41-29.
The Wildcats tried an onside kick, but Josh Huckabee recovered the football for Thayer at its own 45-yard line.
The big play of this drive came via a halfback option pass.
On third-and-13 from the Greenfield 45, Eckman pitched the ball to Bonds who reared back and hit Lowther with a 33-yard pass that took the ball to the 11-yard line.
Four plays later, on fourth-and-5 from the 5, Eckman rolled out to pass, only to tuck the ball and run in for a TD. The 2-point try was nullified, but the Bobcats had stretched their lead to 47-29 with 5:18 left in the game.
The Wildcats were not done putting points on the board. McDowell hit Berry with a 20-yard touchdown throw with a shade over two minutes left to play, pulling Greenfield within 12, down 47-35.
As it turns out, the Bobcats were not done scoring either. Lowther notched his sixth touchdown of the evening from 22 yards out for Thayer's last touchdown of the game. White kicked the PAT to round out the Bobcats' 54-35 rout.
And for good measure, Jacob Sims picked off McDowell with just a few ticks left on the clock to put the icing on Thayer's impressive win.
Things don't get any easier as the Bobcats welcome the state's top-ranked Class 1 team, the Marionville Comets, to Thayer Oct. 27 for the second game of district play.
Marionville knocked off Miller 42-12 Oct. 20 to start its district season at 1-0.