GLOUSTER — The Trimble Tomcats’ playoff opener was not going to script for most of the first half.
Trimble, the No. 1 seed in the Division VII, Region 27 bracket, had its hands full with No. 16 Monroe Central.
The Seminoles, led by quarterback Malachi Rose-Burton and tailback Alex Kilburn, came out swinging and held a 20-12 second-quarter lead.
“That was not a typical 16 seed,” Trimble coach Phil Faires said. “I think we were pretty unlucky to get them. But to win the game, that’s going to help us, to play a tough team like that.”
The Tomcats eventually settled in, and added another playoff victory to their total.
Trimble surged past Monroe Central, 47-26, on Friday inside Glouster Memorial Stadium.
The Tomcats (7-0) won a playoff game for the ninth season in a row, and now have 19 of them in their playoff history.
“It feels good,” junior quarterback Tabor Lackey said. “We came out and played hard and got the win.”
The Tomcats scored 35 unanswered points during one stretch, solving the Seminoles (4-4) to the tune of a 47-20 fourth-quarter lead.
“We ended up wearing them down in the second half and we were able to run our offenses effectively,” Lackey said.
The Tomcats’ playmakers ended up topping the Seminoles’ duo of Kilburn and Rose-Burton.
Lackey and Bryce Downs led the way. Lackey completed 9 of 12 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, adding 89 more yards on the ground with two more scores.
Downs powered his way to 185 yards rushing with three touchdowns, on 18 carries, shaking off two lost fumbles in the first half.
“He’s going to get better and better,” Faires said. “We hadn’t been using him as much at running back this year. You’ll see a lot more of him.”
Blake Guffey also caught four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, as all of Trimble’s weapons got involved on offense.
However, it was the defense — also led mostly by Guffey, Downs and Lackey — that set the tone for the second half.
Monroe Central was held to to just 90 yards of total offense after halftime, with 72 of those yards coming on a scoring drive in the closing minutes.
Kilburn powered Monroe Central with 190 rushing yards, but 170 came in the opening half.
“44 and 13 (Kilburn and Rose-Burton) were two good athletes,” Faires said. “In the second half, except right there in that last drive, we pretty well shut them down. That was the key of the game defensively, doing that.”
Facing a 20-20 halftime tie, the Tomcats received the opening kickoff of the third quarter and never looked back.
Trimble marched 64 yards in eight plays, scoring on Lackey’s one-yard sneak.
Lackey gained 16 yards on the drive on sneak plays behind center Blake Brown. Now leading 27-20, Trimble wouldn’t relinquish that lead.
“It was big that we drove down and scored, put a little pressure on them,” Faires said.
A big sequence followed, allowing the Tomcats to gain further separation.
The Seminoles faced a fourth-and-two from their own 48-yard line on their next drive. They plunged Kilburn into the heart of the Tomcat defense.
It was a play that hard worked in the first half, but the interior of Trimble’s defense was up to the task, throwing Kilburn down for a three-yard loss.
The Tomcats took over and gained a first down, but eventually faced a second-and-25 after a chop block penalty.
Lackey rolled to his left, but when he couldn’t find an open receiver, rolled back the opposite way.
On the run, Lackey fired a pass down field, finding Tucker Dixon wide open.
The junior hauled in the pass for a 45-yard touchdown. Lackey and the Tomcats celebrated, now leading 33-20 with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
“I kind of looked back, and I saw Tuck open, so I kind of rolled out to the right and hit him,” Lackey said.
Added Faires, “Lackey did a good job, the athlete that he is, he had the arm to get it to him. And that’s a tough catch. Especially in high school if you’re wide open, those are sometimes the ones you drop. He made a good play.”
The Tomcats’ next drive lasted only four plays, as they were in total command with a 40-20 lead after Lackey’s 9-yard scoring run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Trimble’s final scoring drive came in the wishbone, Downs’ third touchdown coming on a 10-yard run that ended an eight-play, 63-yard drive.
Monroe Central was up for the challenge, but the Tomcats were still firmly in control with the 47-20 advantage with 6:03 remaining.
“We put it all together,” Faires said. “Played about as good a second half as we did all year, and that was a good team.”
The Tomcats ended the regular season with four consecutive shutouts, and went 19 consecutive quarters without allowing a point dating back to a week two game at Eastern.
That ended when the Seminoles scored on the opening drive thanks to Kilburn’s 25-yard run.
The Tomcats would lead 12-8 after Downs had touchdown runs of 35 and 38 yards.
Monroe Central answered with Rose-Burton’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Michael Bunning on the first play of the second quarter. The Seminoles led 20-12 when Rose-Burton scored on a four-yard run.
The Tomcats tied the game at 20-20 when Lackey hit Guffey for a 23-yard touchdown pass on fourth down, also getting a two-point conversion pass to Downs.
Trimble had three first-half turnovers — two coming in the red zone — before scoring on its first four drives of the second half.
The Tomcats advance in the Region 27 brackets, and host No. 9 Berne Union in a quarterfinal matchup on Friday.
Berne Union was a 28-22 winner over No. 8 Beaver Eastern.
Trimble improved to 8-0 in home playoff games since 2012 with Friday’s win. Because of the different format this season, the Tomcats could still play two more games inside Glouster Memorial Stadium.
Winning playoff games is now a yearly tradition for the Tomcats, and they’ll remain home in Glouster as they try to continue to advance through the Region 27 brackets.
“We’re definitely excited and hopefully we come out with a win again,” Lackey said.
Trimble 47, Monroe Central 26
Monroe Central 8 12 0 6 — 26
Trimble 12 8 13 14 — 47
MC — Alex Kilburn, 25-yard run (Malachi Rose-Burton run), 9:29, 1st
T — Bryce Downs, 35-yard run (pass failed), 5:32, 1st
T — Bryce Downs, 38-yard run (pass failed), 1:25, 1st
MC — Michael Bunning, 29-yard pass from Malachi Rose-Burton (run failed), 11:51, 2nd
MC — Malachi Rose-Burton, 4-yard run (run failed), 7:35, 2nd
T — Blake Guffey, 23-yard pass from Tabor Lackey (Bryce Downs pass from Tabor Lackey), 4:26, 2nd
T — Tabor Lackey, 1-yard run (Blake Guffey kick), 8:06, 3rd
T — Tucker Dixon, 45-yard pass from Tabor Lackey (kick blocked), 3:43, 3rd
T — Tabor Lackey, 9-yard run (Blake Guffey kick), 11:54, 4th
T — Bryce Downs, 10-yard run (Blake Guffey kick), 6:03, 4th
MC — Malachi Rose-Burton, 3-yard run (run failed), 2:26, 4th
First downs 14 19
Plays from scrimmage 53 52
Rushing (plys-yds) 40-239 40-287
Passing yards 71 171
Total net yards 310 458
Passes (cmp-att-int) 8-13-2 9-12-1
Fumbles (no-lost) 3-0 2-2
Penalties (no-yds) 9-44 11-94
Punts (no-avg) 3-29 0-0
Monroe Central — Alex Kilburn 22-190 TD, Malachi Rose-Burton 15-57 2 TDs, Michael Bunning 2-(-7), TEAM 1-(-1); Trimble — Bryce Downs 18-185 3 TDs, Tabor Lackey 18-89 2 TDs, Todd Fouts 4-13.
Monroe Central — Malachi Rose-Burton 8-13-2-71 TD; Trimble — Tabor Lackey 9-12-1-171 2 TDs.
Monroe Central — Michael Bunning 3-47 TD, Auston Hogue 5-24; Trimble — Blake Guffey 4-92 TD, Tucker Dixon 1-45 TD, Todd Fouts 1-19, Austin Wisor 2-8, Bryce Downs 1-7.