THAYER 39, SALEM, ARK. 0
Talking with Thayer Head Football Coach Billy Webber during the first week of school, it was hard not to notice the way he lit up when discussing his group of offensive linemen.
Although Webber acknowleged that his group of Cats manning the trenches this year was not as quick as some of his linemen in the past, they were a bigger bunch than in recent years. And there's nothing like a big, bulky offensive line to get a coach fired up about starting the season.
Turns out Webber's enthusiasm was well founded.
And you can also add Thayer's defensive line into the mix.
The Cats had their way on both sides of the football as they pushed the visiting Salem, Ark., Greyhounds all over the turf at Louis Bozman Stadium in Thayer Sept. 1 in a thoroughly dominating performance in the 2006 Border Battle.
The Bobcats were more than efficient on offense, racking up 298 yards rushing, and totally suffocating on defense, limiting Salem to 46 yards on the ground, en route to a 39-0 shutout win over the Greyhounds.
The first half of play was especially unkind to Salem's offense, with the Hounds handcuffed by two turnovers and a pair of punts in four possessions. Salem would also suffer two more turnovers in the second half, while the Bobcats managed to hold onto the football, avoiding miscues while scoring on six of their nine offensive possessions of the evening.
The Bobcats (1-0) set the tone early, as Jacob Sims picked off Salem (0-1) quarterback Jeff Nelson (49 yards passing) on the Hounds' first possession of the game, nine plays inside the opening kick.
Thayer cashed in on this early good fortune by moving 56 yards in nine plays for the game's first score.
Michael Lowther crossed the goal line from four yards out at the 3:55 mark to give the Cats a 6-0 advantage, the first of his three TDs for the night. The PAT was blocked, but Thayer grabbed a lead it would not relinquish. Lowther toted the rock 15 times for 132 yards in the contest.
With the Bobcats still up 6-0 after the first quarter, it took Thayer just one touch of the ball in the second quarter to build on its lead.
Lowther took a handoff from quarterback Jacob Eckman (6-of-9, 89 yards passing) and rambled 53 yards down the left sideline to paydirt less than 10 seconds into the second quarter. The 2-point try was stopped, but the Bobcats were on top 12-0.
Salem just couldn't get its wheels rolling on offense as Nelson was harassed all evening, forcing him to operate the Greyhounds' offensive attack on the run. The Hounds did drive down to the Thayer 15 on their first possession of the second quarter, but another turnover stopped the drive in its track.
Nelson hit Dustin Vaughan with a nice strike, but Lowther jarred the ball loose and then fell on it, giving the Bobcats the ball back.
Although Thayer was forced to punt on its next possession, the Cats were primed for one more strike just before the half.
Starting at the Salem 40, the Bobcats moved the football all the way down to the Hounds' goal line with time running out in the first half.
Eckman connected with Sims on a 33-yard pass that gave Thayer a first-and-goal from the 1 with 21 ticks showing on the clock.
The Bobcats then tried a running play, but Salem stacked Lowther up for no gain and the scoreboard clock showed all zeros before Thayer could run another play, sending the two sides to intermission with the Cats up 12-0.
A bit of deception allowed Thayer to extend its advantage early in the third quarter.
The Hounds defense came out inspired and pushed the Bobcats backward, forcing Thayer into a punting situation with a fourth-and-13 from their own 35-yard line.
Only Thayer didn't punt.
Lowther, lined up in punt formation, took the snap and sprinted to the Greyhounds' 39, giving Thayer a fresh set of downs.
Lowther wasn't done, taking a pitch from Eckman five plays later to find his way into the end zone at the 8:02 point of the third. Tyler Bonds carried the ball in for the 2-point conversion, staking the Bobcats to a 20-0 lead.
The Greyhounds attempt at an answering score ended with another turnover on their next possession, a fumble that was recovered by Thayer's Cody Ary at the Salem 44-yard line.
Six plays later, Bonds (17 yards rushing) found the end zone from five yards out with 2:30 left in the third. Jason White booted the point-after, boosting Thayer's lead to 27-0.
Jacob Sims (63 yards rushing) got in on the scoring with a 15-yard tote at the 10:09 mark of the fourth to keep Thayer rolling. The PAT was no good, but the Bobcats were in firm control with a 33-0 lead.
Thayer added one final score to its tally, a lengthy 13-play, 55-yard drive that featured 36 yards of rushing from Josh Huckabee. Backup Bobcat quarterback Tony Ary used a QB keeper on third-and-goal from the 1 to cap the Bobcats' 39-0 shutout.
Zach Harber and Corey Tyler logged 12 yards apiece on the ground for Salem, while Blake Hurst and Lance Powell had seven yards of rushing apiece.