THAYER 26, HOUSTON 0
Make that two shutout wins.
Not a bad way to start the new season.
After Thayer had blanked the Salem, Ark., Greyhounds 39-0 in week one, the Bobcats welcomed the Houston Tigers to town on a beautiful Sept. 8 evening.
As the Tigers made their way to the border to tangle with Thayer, Houston's week-one 47-0 shutout at the hands of the Marionville Comets had to be on their minds, as the Tigers surely wanted to prove that game was a fluke.
Turns out it's back to the drawing board for the Tigers, as the Bobcats recorded their second straight shutout on the year, hammering the Tigers 26-0, keeping Houston scoreless for 2006.
"As a coaching staff, we've been real pleased with our defensive effort the first two games," said Bobcat Head Coach Billy Webber. "Our line has been getting a good surge up front, and our secondary has been making plays, so we're happy with our defense. Especially against a couple of fine teams like Houston and Salem."
The Bobcats kicked off to start the night, with Houston's senior running back Jack Montgomery receiving the ball and making a couple of good moves to get to the Houston 40.
Running the double-wing offense, the Tigers attempted to use misdirection, but the Cats stopped them on three consecutive attempts, getting a big push by the front defensive line, led by big John Barnett.
After Houston got off a good punt, Jacob Sims made a couple of quick moves and ripped off a 22-yard return to the Tiger 46.
Junior running back Michael Lowther got hit in the backfield, but managed to spin away and pick up seven yards.
Sims then took a handoff to the right side for another four yards and a Bobcat first down.
Houston's defense stiffened and dropped Thayer quarterback Jacob Eckman in the backfield on the next couple of plays.
On third-and-16, Eckman tried to hit a wide-open Cody Ary, but the pass was just a bit too long and fell incomplete.
After a movement penalty, Lowther punted to the Houston 25.
Houston's sophomore quarterback ran a keeper around the left side and got hammered by Sims for a gain of only one yard.
After a couple of running attempts up the middle, the Tigers punted to Sims.
On their next series from scrimmage, the Bobcats ran up the middle with Lowther, Tyler Bonds and Sims, but they could not advance for a first down.
With both teams running hard and Thayer playing good defense, Houston went four-and-out and the Tigers punted to Lowther who made a move up the sideline to the 47. However, Lowther's run was all for naught, as a yellow hankie hit the field, bringing the play back for a block-in-the-back penalty.
The Bobcats pulled a halfback pass out of the play book, with Bonds attempting a pass to Luke Martin. The ball was thrown a little short, and hit a Houston defender in the back, falling incomplete, ending the first quarter with double goose eggs on the scoreboard.
The second quarter began with the Bobcats looking at a fourth-and-2.
Eckman broke free for a nice 12-yard gain, then Lowther picked up a chunk of good yards down the sideline, advancing the ball close to the goal line.
After the first power stack at the 2 failed, Eckman dove over the top for a Bobcat touchdown. The point-after kick by Jason White split the uprights, putting the Bobcats on the scoreboard with a 7-0 lead.
Houston lined up and pounded the ball over the left side for pickups of eight and 11 yards, then the Tigers got another 15 on the ground.
Bonds then broke through and stopped Houston for a loss, with help from Kris Frillman on the big defensive play.
Houston called time with 5:58 on the clock and a third-and-4 on the field.
The Tigers then shot themselves in the foot by jumping offsides to make it fourth-and-9 from the 40.
The Tigers rolled the bones and went for it on fourth down with a short pass play.
Ryan Veatch made the stop, keeping Houston short of a first down.
The Cats took over on downs and Bonds ran straight into the gut of the Houston defense, picking up a short gain. He then burst loose for a nice 15-yard scamper.
Sims picked up four yards on a sweep, but the striped shirts added on a inadvertent face mask to the end of the run.
Two incomplete passes forced the Cats to punt from the 40, giving Houston the ball on its own 37 with 4:20 left in the half.
Barnett stopped Montgomery for a loss on first down, but Houston's running attack moved the football upfield for a first down.
Eckman and Scott Hargus teamed up to stop the wingback for a loss, forcing the Tigers to call time.
Unable to make the connection on two pass attempts, the Tigers punted.
Thayer came to the line and Eckman tossed a 10-yard pass to Martin.
Then Eckman dropped back to pass but found all his receivers covered, so he pulled it down and eluded tacklers for a carry of 16 yards and a first down.
After a couple of more plays the Bobcats had to turn the ball over to the Tigers, who with 17 seconds left in the half chose to take a knee to end the half with Thayer on top 7-0.
The Tigers recovered a Bobcat fumble early in the second half, but good Thayer defense, led by Derek Armstead plugged up the middle to stop the Tigers' running game.
After a short pass the Tigers were looking at fourth-and-2.
Thayer held once again on fourth down and took over on the 23.
Eckman dropped back to pass, and finding no open receivers, pulled the ball down, slipping and sliding for a 12-yard pickup.
Lining up in a no-huddle offense, the Cats began to pick up the pace.
A 21-yard pass to Lowther moved the ball to the 47.
Still in the hurry-up offense, the Cats sent a man in motion and then ran Bonds right up the middle to pick up another 12 yards, down to the 30.
Eckman then tucked the ball and cruised to the sideline for a nice quarterback keeper.
Houston stiffened a bit and forced Thayer to turn the football over on downs at the Houston 33.
The Bobcat defense then held and got the ball back, with Thayer starting from their own 35-yard line.
Lowther got some great blocking downfield as the Bobcats set up a screen pass on the left side, with the speedy back turning on the jets to blast for a 65-yard TD run. The extra-point try was no good, but Thayer was in control, up 13-0 with 5:21 on the third quarter clock. For the night, Lowther picked up 150 yards rushing on 18 carries. He also caught two passes for 73 more yards.
"In the first two games of the year, our defense has set the tone with two really good first halves," said Webber. "Then in the second half of the games, our defense has continued to play well and our offense has started to heat up in the last two quarters."
Up 13-0 heading into the final frame, the Bobcats started the fourth quarter with runs of four, 14 and 11 yards, the last one by Lowther taking the ball down to the 10-yard line of Houston.
Bonds (eight carries, 77 yards) took it right up the gut of the Tiger D, making it to the 1.
Bonds then finished the drive by smashing across the goal line for a TD. White missed the PAT wide right, but the Cats still extended their advantage to 19-0.
On Houston's next possession, Bonds recovered a Tiger fumble to put Thayer back in business.
After a quick hitter to Sims for three yards, Eckman handed off to Lowther, who followed the lead blocking Barnett. Barnett cleared a huge path and Lowther stayed in the hip pocket of the big guard.
With Barnett getting a great openfield block on the Tiger defensive back, Lowther made a cut to pick up 18 yards.
A couple of plays later, Lowther hit paydirt by diving over one Houston defender, hurdling over another and performing a pirouette down the sideline to cross the goal line for a 17-yard TD run. White kicked the ball through the uprights for the extra point, building Thayer's lead to 26-0 with 6:53 left in the game, sealing the Cats' second straight shutout win of the year.
"Lowther's just a shifty back with some nice moves," Webber said. "And when you've got guys like Frillman and Barnett opening holes, that makes a big difference. It's easier to run to daylight like that."
The Bobcats make the long road trip to Malden Sept. 15 for another non-district contest.
"They're big and fast," Webber said of a Malden team that is also 2-0 to start the season.