CROSS ROADS — The Blooming Grove Lions opened the 2019 football season the right way with an impressive 39-0 shutout victory over the Cross Roads Bobcats Friday night in Cross Roads.
New Lions coach and athletic director Ervin Chandler watched his defense come away with five turnovers, his special teams run a punt back for a score, and his offense roll up 419 total yards in the impressive season opening win.
Offensive starters for Blooming Grove were Taylor Cochran at center, Tanner Drain and Nick Wilcoxen at the guard spots, and Kaleb Ferguson and Jordan Kincaid held down the tackle positions for an offensive line that dominated the line of scrimmage.
Carson Rucks manned the quarterback position and Jalen Coleman started at tailback. Starting receivers were Damon Lovett, Josh Glasco, and Matthew Beacom.
Rucks had a big night for the Lions, completing 12 of 18 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown. He also carried the ball four times for 32 yards. Running back Joe Valasquez only carried the ball five times but he made the most of his opportunities, picking up 143 yards and two scores. Sophomore Coleman carried 11 times for 64 yards and a score and also caught two passes for 25 yards.
The leading Lions receiver was Damon Lovett with four catches for 96 yards and a score. Glasco had three receptions for 42 yards, Colton Nicholson caught two for 18 yards, and Will Stuckert had a catch for minus one yard.
Defensive starters for Blooming Grove had Nicholson, Cochran, Wilcoxen, and Issac Haden up front with Stuckert, Jacob Esparza, and Guillermo Velazquez manning the linebacker spots. Cornerbacks were Michael Adkins and Beacom and the safeties were Glasco and Coleman.
It was a big night for Beacom as he came away with an interception and a fumble recovery to go along with his numerous tackles. Coleman had two interceptions and returned one of them for a score, and Adkins also came away with a fumble recovery.
Lovett added a 70-yard punt return for a score just for good measure. Kincaid, Julian Camacho, Brandon Hardwick, and Dakota Coker all logged minutes on the defensive side of the ball as well.
It was a rough night offensively for the Bobcats. Quarterback Jacob Townson completed only one of 15 passes for five yards. He also suffered three interceptions but he was not helped by his receivers as they dropped numerous throws that should have been completed. Running back Eli Wilson led Cross Roads' rushing with 73 yards on 15 carries. Alex Marston picked up 50 yards in 21 attempts.
After exchanging several possessions between the two clubs, it was the Lions defense that provided the first big break in the contest. A nice interception by Beacom at the Bobcat 45 had Blooming Grove in great field position.
On the first play after the turnover, Coleman raced into the end zone for an apparent touchdown only to have it called back on a holding penalty. It only delayed the scoring, however, as Rucks and Lovett hooked up on a perfect screen pass that covered 56 yards for the score with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter. Andrew Roberts kicked the extra point to give the Lions a 7-0 advantage.
It was actually the Blooming Grove defense that helped set up the next score as the Lions stopped a Bobcat drive on fourth down at the Lions 34 yard line.
A 20-yard pass play from Rucks to Nicholson was followed up with a run of 36 by Rucks that moved the ball to the 16. A 10-yard run by Coleman moved it to the 6-yard-line and then Coleman did the honors on his next carry as he covered the final six yards for the touchdown at the 9:51 mark of quarter number two. The extra point kick was missed so the score was 13-0 in favor of the visiting Lions.
The next Lion score came with 8:10 remaining in the third as Coleman stepped in front of a Townson pass at the Bobcats 42. Coleman made the interception and went untouched into the end zone for the score. Roberts kicked the extra point and the Lion lead increased to 20-0.
It was the rushing and pass receiving of Coleman and Joe Velasquez that helped get the Lions on the board once again in the third. A run of 14 by Coleman and a pass reception from Rucks that moved the ball to the Cross Roads 27 yard line. A run of five yards and a catch of 21 by Velasquez moved the Lions to the one and Velasquez ran it into the end zone from there at the 1:22 mark of the quarter. The extra point kick failed leaving the score at 26-0.
The next Lions score came on a brilliant 70-yard punt return by Lovett on the opening play of the fourth. Roberts made the extra point kick and the lead increased to 33-0.
The Lions final tally came with 8:28 left in game when Velasquez scored on a 53 yard run. The kicked failed, leaving a final of 39-0.
“We didn’t execute as well as I would have liked, both offensively and defensively," said Chandler, who won his first game as a head coach. "We had some miscues, but our guys never quit, and they continued to fight throughout the game.
"We came out a little sluggish in the first half, but we played much better in the third and fourth quarters. It was a good win and a good start to the season,” summed up Chandler in a post-game interview.