MILLERSBURG — Mansfield Senior dug itself a hole and couldn’t claw its way out Friday night at West Holmes.
The Tygers spotted the Knights a two touchdown advantage and never recovered in a 35-20 loss in the Ohio Cardinal Conference opener.
Mansfield Senior (2-2, 0-1) trailed West Holmes (4-0, 1-0) 14-0 after the first quarter.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about for a long time, not digging yourselves a hole early,” Mansfield Senior coach Chioke Bradley said. “We came out here and we’re own 14-0 just like that. We’re on the road against a good team in a hostile environment. That’s tough to overcome.”
West Holmes took the opening kickoff and marched 77 yards on just four plays to grab a quick 7-0 lead. Quarterback Bridger Cline hooked up with Shane Jones on an 8 yard scoring strike with 10:48 remaining in the first period. The duo connected on a 9-yarder late in the first quarter for a 14-0 West Holmes advantage.
“They played man coverage on us and when a team plays man coverage on us, you have to win your matchups,” West Holmes coach Zach Gardner said. “We feel that we’ve got five or six different guys we can distribute the ball to and Bridger did a good job of distributing the ball tonight.”
Senior High finally got on the board when running back Amajeon Robertson bulled his way into the end zone from 5 yards out midway through the second quarter.
West Holmes blocked an Angelo Grose punt out of the back of the end zone for a safety to open a 16-7 lead, but the Tygers struck back when Grose found Armon Huguely for a 36 yard touchdown to cut the Knights’ advantage to 16-14 with just 1:04 remaining in the first half.
The momentum was short-lived, however, as Gavin Sheldon returned the ensuing kickoff 41 yards to midfield. Cline eventually found Grady Hay for a 2 yard touchdown pass just 14 seconds before halftime as the Knights took a 22-14 advantage to the break.
“That’s huge,” Gardner said of the kickoff return. “Special teams is … something we take pride in. Special teams were a major part of our victory tonight.”
The Tygers took the second-half kickoff and marched 80 yards on 12 plays. Robertson capped the drive with a 6 yard TD run with 6:56 remaining in the third quarter to make it 22-20.
West Holmes’ Mark Biltz booted a 30 yard field goal to give the Knights a 25-20 advantage. Mansfield Senior defensive lineman Ty’lheir Grose picked off a Cline pass midway through the fourth quarter to give the Tygers life. But on the very next play, West Holmes’ Shiloh Jones stepped in front of an Angelo Grose pass and the Knights cashed in on the turnover when Cline hooked up with Cale Ogi for a 59 yard touchdown and a 32-20 lead with 8:17 remaining.
“The play of the game was Shiloh Jones stepping in for an injured player and coming up with an interception,” Gardner said. “He’s a senior who is selfless and understands the team aspect of this.”
Cline completed 16 of 31 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns but was picked off twice. Shane Jones had six catches for 123 yards.
Robertson ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries for the Tygers. Angelo Grose completed 7 of 16 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown but also threw two interceptions.
“I felt like we took the momentum and made some plays, but we didn’t make enough,” Bradley said. “There were plays out here to be made and they made more than we did.”