The quick-strike capability of the Mater Dei Knights was evident in the first eight minutes as they regained possession of the Milk Bowl with a 40-12 win over Central Friday.
Entering the annual Clinton County gridiron classic with a 1-3 record, the Knights got a 73-yard touchdown run from Logan Ratermann on the second play from scrimmage and never looked back. The Knights shocked the previously undefeated Cougars before a crowd in excess of 3,000 at Mater Dei High School.
Junior quarterback Travis Jasper added a 75-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Thiesing and added a 1-yard plunge for the Knights who led 20-0 with 3 minutes 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
“After the last couple of weeks we felt it was important that we come out hard and get out to quick start,’’ said Thiesing who added a touchdown catch and two interceptions in the second half. ‘Travis (Jasper) was on the money all night and the defense stepped up.
“We knew if we could stop the run and forced them to put the ball in the air that we would be alright. We did that.’’
With a 20-0 lead and still just under four minutes remaining in the opening quarter, the Knights’ injury-riddled defense took over the game.
Holding Central quarterback Trent Nunn in check throughout and forcing the Cougars into numerous errors early, the Knights never threatened after the first quarter.
“We talked about coming out and executing on both sides of the football and we did that. We got a couple of big plays early in the game and I think nthat gave us a little confidence,” Knights coach Jim Stiebel said. “Our defense has been steady and has done the job for us all year when we’ve had everybody in the lineup.
“This was a big game and the kids responded with a very good effort. Hopefully this will get us going.’’
Central (4-1) appeared to be in a fog during the first eight minutes. Following Ratermann’s touchdown to start the game, Jasper followed with a strike to Theising who got past the defenders and raced into the end zone for a 13-0 lead.
Two minutes later, Jasper, who had three touchdown passes on the night, scored on a 1-yard run. That touchdown was set up by a 38-yard completion to Garrett Foppe.
“Travis did a good job,’’ Stiebel said. “We had him 10-of-18 with three touchdowns. What is that, 65 percent? That’s a good night.’’
Nunn finally got the Cougars on the scoreboard on a 3-yard run midway in the second quarter. But that was about the only bright spot for coach Brian Short’s team.
“They jumped on us quick and in the first right minutes of the game everything that we could do fundamentally wrong, we did,’’ Short said. “We have been living on the edge for the last four weeks. Well, tonight somebody finally pushed us over.
“The question now is will be bounce back and get back on top of that mountain again.’’
Theising put any comeback hopes Central may have had away early in the second half. With barely a minute gone, he intercepted a pass from Nunn inside the Central 35-yard line. Five plays later, he collected a 9-yard scoring pass from Jasper for a 27-6 lead.
Jasper then added a 43-yard soering pass to Foppe later in the third quarter to increase the Knights lead to 33-6.