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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Youthful exuberance!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It might be a small exaggeration to say that experience is not important in high school football.

OK, it's probably more like a huge exaggeration to say that experience is not important in high school football.

However, as the Thayer Bobcats so impressively proved in week one of the 2011 season, hungry youth can sure help make up for a lack of seasoned veterans.

Pounding the football behind its brand-new offensive line, while playing its usual tough-as-nails defense, Thayer rolled to a big 29-14 victory over the Class 3 Salem Tigers in South Central Association play Aug. 26 at Louis Bozman Stadium, in the season-opener for both schools.

With just one returning starter -- senior Kendall Pittman -- on their offensive line, plus with the graduation of dynamic running back Cameron Carey, the Cats' bread-and-butter ground attack was surrounded by questions heading into the contest with Salem.

But by all indications, a bunch of those questions have positive answers in their favor.

The new freshmen played extremely well in the trenches and Thayer rushed for almost 200 yards in the game.

And to go hand-in-hand with those positives on offense, the Bobcats were stiff on defense and special teams, as Thayer forced five Tiger turnovers in the game.

But on Thayer's (1-0) opening series of the game, it looked like it might be a long night for the team in green-and-white.

On their own 37-yard line, the Cats coughed up the football and it was recovered by Salem's Bryce Starkey.

The Tigers (0-1) pushed the ball all the way to the Thayer 7 before the Bobcats defense got busy and stuffed Salem on three straight plays, the last one ending in a quarterback sack by Levi Hargrove on fourth down to give the ball back to the Cats.

Connor Blair ripped off a big-time 76-yard run down the left sideline for Thayer, taking the ball all the way to the Salem 5-yard line. Blair racked up 124 yards rushing to pace Thayer's ground game.

However, Thayer couldn't punch the ball in and Salem took over on downs.

The first big break of the game for the Bobcats came four snaps later when the Tigers put the ball on the ground and Hunter Ary scooped it up at the Tigers' 25-yard line.

One play later, Thayer quarterback Mitch Webber, who split time with Brandon Childers at the position, hit Blair with a 25-yard touchdown pass with 2:06 left in the first quarter to get Thayer on the board.

The 2-point play was no good, but the Cats took a 6-0 lead into the second quarter.

Thayer made it a two-touchdown cushion with 6:53 left before the half on an 8-yard TD run from Jeremy Cabrales.

Instead of shaving points off that lead, the Tigers turned the ball over again on their next possession, and Blair picked the ball off the turf and blasted 43 yards for a TD with 3:11 showing on the second-quarter clock. For the third straight time, Thayer's 2-point try was stopped, but the Bobcats still took an 18-0 lead into the halftime break.

The dominance that Thayer displayed in the first half waned a bit in the third quarter, although Salem's first drive of the frame ended when Derek Krieg fell on top of a Tigers' fumble.

Still, Salem shook off that miscue when Ben Adams ripped off a 70-yard touchdown run down the left sideline at the 8:15 mark for the Tigers' first score of the 2011 season. The 2-point conversion failed and Thayer led 18-6.

But quick as lightning, the Cats' special teams stepped up when Blair ran the ensuing kickoff back 80 yards for a responding touchdown for the Bobcats, with 8:02 left in the third. Childers hooked up with Cabrales on the 2-point conversion pass, pushing Thayer in front 26-6.

Salem narrowed the gap with a 19-yard TD run by quarterback Brady Floyd that came with three ticks left in the third.

But with a 26-14 lead on their side heading into the final frame, the Cats had no intention of letting Salem pull any closer.

Blair and Shelby Barton each recovered a Salem fumble in the fourth, and Cabrales booted a 27-yard field goal to wrap up Thayer's impressive 29-14 victory over the Salem Tigers.

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