TRAVERSE CITY — Just like that, Traverse City Central’s record improved to 2-1.
Seemingly in the blink of an eye.
The Trojans dominated their football game with South Lyon East almost from the start and the clock ran unchecked the entire second half in an emphatic 38-0 victory Friday at Thirlby Field.
The game finished in less than two hours — 1:50, to be exact — as the first half ended at 8:01 p.m. and the entire game finished at 9:50 p.m. It’s almost as if the Trojans couldn’t wait to get to rival TC West next week.
“It went so fast. It was crazy,” Trojans defensive end Tylor McCoon said. “The second half was just so fast. It was unreal.”
TC Central (2-1) enters next week’s TC Patriot Game on a two-game win streak with some serious momentum.
The Trojans hadn’t scored in the first quarter of their first two contests, and striking in the opening stanza Friday was a priority. Central accomplished that — twice.
“Last week we struggled early and that was the main focus,” Trojans senior linebacker Mitch Stachnik said. “They drove five hours all the way up here. We wanted to give it to them right away and show them that we were the best team here. I think we did that right away.”
Josh Burnham ran in from a yard out from a wildcat shotgun formation for Central’s first score with 3:04 left in the first quarter. That possession was set up by a Luke Morrison interception when Dorian Armstrong fumbled the ball into the air on a pass reception and Morrison snagged it out of the air and returned it to the Cougars’ 43.
Stachnik recovered a fumbled shotgun snap on South Lyon’s next offensive play, and five plays later Austin Bills ran in from 17 yards out for a 14-0 lead with just under a minute left in the first quarter.
“We didn’t do that the first two games and we challenged our guys,” Central head coach Eric Schugars said. “’We have to get off to a great start. I thought we did that. And then we created turnovers and then just kind of steamrolled from there. Any time you can cause turnovers and then score, that’s kind of a back breaker. We did that early. I just felt like we were in control.”
The Trojans held the Cougars to just 1.8 yards per play, despite South Lyon’s massive offensive line. Central averaged 5.5 yards a play. Central’s defensive line of Kyle Anderson, Carson Briggs, Jordan Liggett and McCoon handled the Cougars’ offensive line that weighed in from tackle to tackle at 317-323-283-280-240.
“They had big guys for sure,” Stachnik said. “But, man, our guys are quick on the D-line. Liggett, Briggs, Anderson, McCoon, a lot of fast guys.”
Burnham partially blocked a Cougars punt after a three-and-out, and Central took nine plays to cover 43 yards, finished off by a weaving 6-yard run by Peyton Smith.
Trey Searles picked off an overthrown pass over the middle two plays later and brought it back 60 yards for a touchdown.
“He covered some ground to get to it,” Schugars said. “And that’s why he’s back there. We needed a guy to be able to do that. As soon as he gets in his hands, look out.”
Smith hit Carson Hall in stride on a wheel curl route for a 13-yard TD with 18.5 ticks left before halftime, and Alex Parks booted his fifth extra point for a 35-0 lead that would start the second half with a running clock.
Parks tacked on a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter.
“We just had great energy today and just everything was working in our favor,” Burnham said. “I feel like we just wanted it more. We had more heart and we just came prepared.”
South Lyon, which has 14 sophomores up on varsity because it didn’t have enough for a JV team, gained 30 rushing yards on 26 carries, as starting tailback Donovan Wright missed the game with an injury.
Burnham ran 13 times for 92 yards and a score, Austin Bills added 10 carries for 46 yards and a TD and quarterback Peyton Smith rushed five times for 36 yards.
Morrison led the defense with six tackles, Liggett added five and Anderson and McCoon each logged five. Kadin Crosley had a sack.
Central plays rival Traverse City West in next week’s TC Patriot Game, which the Titans won 21-14 a season ago.
“It’s a really big one,” Burnham said. “We’ve got to come back to practice strong next week. Just have a great day every day. It’s going to be a fun game. It’s going to be very emotional. I’m ready for it. We’re ready for it.”