MONDAMIN - On it’s disastrous first two plays from scrimmage Fremont-Mills netted four yards, two fumbles and a turnover.
Then things really got bad. Four plays later West Harrison converted that turnover into a touchdown and then added four more scores off Knight first half giveaways en route to a 62-12 season-opening victory over Fremont-Mills in Mondamin on Friday.
After winning the opening coin toss and electing to receive the ball first, the Hawkeyes jumped on the Knights and never seemed to let up.
“We got physically abused to start the game,” said Fremont-Mills head coach Jeremy Christiansen after the game. “Their physicality and speed overwhelmed us to start and it took us a while to get going. And when we did get going it seemed like we’d have a dropped pass or a turnover. I think three of our turnovers happened on a first down. It was just one of those things.”
Following that turnover on their second play from scrimmage the Knights punted on their next possession, leading to another Hawkeye touchdown. Trailing 14-0 less than five minutes into the game Fremont-Mills fumbled the ensuing kick off which was recovered by West Harrison on the Knight 27 yard line. On the very next play, quarterback Trey Kirlin found Jake Roden for a touchdown to make the score 21-0 with 7:22 to go in the first quarter.
The Knights rallied on their next possession with a five-play, 44-yard drive capped by Jason Rusten’s 32-yard touchdown toss to Broc Hansen. But the Hawkeyes all but extinguished any Knight momentum on their next possession when Tyler Birdsall raced 65 yards for a touchdown.
Fremont-Mills came back to close out the opening frame and their scoring on the night with a one yard scoring plunge by Spencer Phillips to cap a 12-play, 62-yard drive.
The wild, 41 minute first quarter featured six touchdowns, 39 points and 293 combined yards.
The Hawkeyes led 55-12 at halftime. With the clock running continuously after halftime as part of the “mercy rule” both teams subbed liberally in the final two quarters.
For the game, West Harrison had 10 plays of 20 yards or more and converted all six Knights’ turnovers and an on-side kick to open the second half into touchdowns while racking up 347 total yards for the game.
With a young defense having to replace nearly the entire defensive line and linebacking corps, the Knights’ struggles on defense were a result of both breakdowns and being overmatched by some of the Hawkeyes’ athletes, Christiansen said.
“Number two (Tyler Birdsall) had a lot of big plays for them on sheer speed alone,” Christiansen said. “But we did have quite a few breakdowns we need to get taken care of. This is kind of a pre-season game. The (New England) Patriots just got beat 40-9 and they’re one of the better ones. You have to live and learn.”
Spencer Phillips led the Knights with nine carries for 60 yards and a touchdown. Splitting duties under center, freshman Sam Phillips and Rusten combined to complete 6-of-13 passes for 89 yards.
With a bye week coming up for the Knights, Christiansen said he knows his team is better than 62-12. They have eight games, including all seven district games, left to show it.
“I think they learned that in practice there is pretty big disparity between our top to our bottom which is alright but we have work to do,” Christiansen said. "I think this could open our eyes just a little bit more. I think we played well at times. You take 10 plays out, and any coach will say this, and it changes the game. Turnovers kill. Big plays kill.”
WH 27 28 07 00 - 62
FM 12 00 00 00 - 12
WH – Trey Kirlin, 1 run (kick failed).
WH – Tyler Birdsall, 36 run (two-point conversion good).
WH – Kirlin to Jake Roden, 27 pass (kick good).
FM – Jason Rusten to Broc Hansen, 32 pass (conversion failed).
WH – Birdsall, 65 run (kick blocked).
FM – Phillips, 1 run (kick blocked).
WH – Birdsall, 1 run (kick good).
WH – Roden, 8 run (kick good).
WH – Birdsall, 37 run (kick good).
WH – Roden, 15 run (kick good).
WH – Roden, 23 run (kick good).