Note: This recap appears in the Tuesday, Sept. 3 newspaper on Page A6.
GLOUSTER — A powerful defense?
A strong running game?
The Trimble Tomcats started the new season in much the same way they left off in 2018, powering their way to a 35-0 victory over arch-rival Nelsonville-York inside a packed Glouster Memorial Stadium.
Trimble recorded nine shutouts a year ago, winning 13 games and advancing all the way to the Division VII state championship game.
Much of the same cast returns, as the Tomcats (1-0) have eight starters back on both sides of the ball. They appeared to hit the ground running, as they stifled the Buckeyes (0-1) at every turn.
Trimble outgained Nelsonville-York 432-104. The Tomcats won the line of scrimmage, finishing with 377 yards on 53 rushes. Yes, the wishbone offense was back in full force.
“They had a game plan to stop that wishbone,” Trimble coach Phil Faires said. “I told our guys to just keep hitting them and they would wear down, and I think they did.”
Senior tailback Conner Wright and senior quarterback Cameron Kittle — both three-year starters — ran the show on offense. They ran behind an offensive line that was energized by the return of senior Garrett Richards, who missed most of the preseason with a leg injury.
Wright had 188 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, while Kittle had 102 yards and two scores on 13 rushes. Kittle also added 55 yards passing.
One of Trimble’s few question marks was filling the spot in the wishbone formation left open by the graduation of Max Hooper.
Junior Todd Fouts answered that question by adding 46 yards on 14 carries.
While Trimble established its rushing attack, the Buckeyes weren’t able to generate enough offense against the staunch Tomcat defense.
Nelsonville-York had minus-four yards as a team on 14 carries. Mikey Seel completed 9 of 23 passes for 104 yards, and 43 of those yards came in the game’s final minute.
“We couldn’t get a run game going,” Nelsonville-York coach Rusty Richards said. “They’re very stout up front. So hats off to them. We had some windows in the passing game. We had some misreads, dropped balls. Sometimes we made the right read, just didn’t make the throw. It was a total team effort on mess ups tonight.”
Trimble was able to bottle up Nelsonville-York’s electric athlete in Keegan Wilburn. He had only five carries for minus-nine yards, catching two passes for a net gain of zero yards.
Wilburn had the attention of Trimble’s entire defense, and it showed.
“You have to switch things up when you play a guy like Wilburn,” Faires said. “He can score at any time. We did basically the same thing we did last year. It worked so we were hoping it would work again this year. I think it did.
“We’d never go without help (on Wilburn). One on each side. It seemed to work.”
Trimble set the tone early, finding the end zone on its second drive. The Tomcats drove 69 yards in 11 plays to lead 6-0.
Kittle capped the drive off with a nine-yard scoring run on third-and-goal. A Buckeye defender had Kittle in his sights at the line of scrimmage, but Kittle got away and raced into the end zone.
“Have to get to the film, but I know in that first half, every touchdown run, we had them in the backfield,” Richards said. “So again, hats off to their running backs, it was a collective effort, but we have to tackle better if we want to win big football games like this.”
Trimble’s second scoring drive featured a big pass play to fullback Sawyer Koons.
He got open in the left flat on third-and-six, gaining 19 yards down to the 1-yard line. Kittle scored on a QB sneak on the next play and it was 14-0 after Wright’s 2-point conversion out of a muddle-huddle formation.
Trimble’s next drive covered 57 yards on six plays, Wright’s 8-yard run increasing the lead to 21-0 before halftime.
The Tomcats went into halftime in control, gaining 245 yards of offense to Nelsonville-York four yards.
“Once we hit them hard we knew they weren’t going to keep coming as hard as they were,” Kittle said. “That was really the key for us.”
Trimble was able to grind out yards in the second half. Wright’s 2-yard plunge in the third quarter made it 28-0.
The Tomcats put the running clock into play with a mammoth 13-play, 87-yard drive that ate 9 minutes and 19 seconds off the game clock. The result was a 35-0 lead after Wright’s 2-yard run with just 3:28 to play.
Garrett Richards’ return to the lineup from injury was a big factor for the Tomcats. Richards is a three-year starter up front with loads of experience. Faires said they found out on Thursday that Richards would be able to play.
“We put him out there,” Faires said. “Had to switch sides with him. He couldn’t push too well off the one side. But he must have done a really good job.”
The Buckeyes were led by Zach Taylor’s 50 yards on two catches, while Christopher McDonald caught three passes for 31 yards.
The road won’t get any easier for Nelsonville-York, which travels to Fort Frye on Friday.
The Tomcats will open up league play with a game at Belpre.
Trimble has high expectations and hopes to play for a long time in 2019. But for Saturday it was all about enjoying a second win in a row in the competitive series with the Buckeyes.
“Oh this is the biggest game of the year for us, mentally,” Kittle said. “This year it was even more of a big game. We think this essentially gets us into the playoffs. That’s what we’re all about.”
Messenger staff journalist Jason Arkley contributed to this report.
Trimble 35, Nelsonville-York 0
Nelsonville-York 0 0 0 0 — 0
Trimble 6 15 7 7 — 35
T — Cameron Kittle, 9-yard run (kick failed), 2:21, 1st
T — Cameron Kittle, 1-yard run (Conner Wright run), 10:43, 2nd
T — Conner Wright, 8-yard run (Blake Guffey kick), 6:47, 2nd
T — Conner Wright, 2-yard run (Blake Guffey kick), 4:12, 3rd
T — Conner Wright, 2-yard run (Blake Guffey kick), 3:28, 4th
First downs 4 18
Plays from scrimmage 37 58
Rushing (plys-yds) 14-(-4) 53-377
Passing yards 104 55
Total net yards 100 432
Passes (cmp-att-int) 9-23-0 3-5-0
Fumbles (no-lost) 3-1 1-1
Penalties (no-yds) 10-105 10-115
Punts (no-avg) 4 37.3 2-22.5
Nelsonville-York — Maleek Williams 1-4, Brandon Phillips 1-1, Mikey Seel 1-(-1), Keegan Wilburn 5-(-9); Trimble — Conner Wright 20-188 3 TDs, Cameron Kittle 13-102 2 TDs, Todd Fouts 14-46, Bryce Downs 5-37, Sawyer Koons 1-4
Nelsonville-York — Mikey Seel 9-23-0-104; Trimble — Cameron Kittle 3-5-0-55
Nelsonville-York —Zach Taylor 2-50, Christopher McDonald 3-31, Brandon Phillips 1-14, Ethan Gail 1-9, Keegan Wilburn 2-0; Trimble — Blake Guffey 1-21, Sawyer Koons 1-19, Bryce Downs 1-15