Leo is going to run the ball. That is no surprise – not even a little bit, ever.
They did so with energy and ease on Friday night in a 50-10 win over Angola that was essentially over before halftime. The Lions ran for 345 yards and romped to a 43-0 lead before the Hornets even really knew what hit them in the second quarter.
Again, there was no surprise. Leo did what Leo does. But it was the defensive side of the football where the Lions shined perhaps brighter, controlling Angola’s pretty solid run game well. Quarterback Tyler Call found his lanes at times and put up 115 yards on the ground, but Leo zoned in on hard charging Finley Hasselman, holding him to just 16 yards on 20 attempts.
“We say it starts up front with the front four that we have,” Leo coach Jared Sauder said. “It is a veteran group that does a great job controlling the line of scrimmage. And then we have guys at the back end that can run and hit so we are really happy with how we are executing on that side of the ball. The physical play and speed of our defense is really kind of where we want it right now.”
Hasselman had run for 230 yards in the season opener, so holding him to just 0.8 yards per carry in week two was a major momentum shifter for the Lions defense. And it forced Angola to scramble more, putting the emphasis on Call as the Hornets averaged just 3.9 yards per carry as a team compared to Leo’s 12.9 yards per carry on the offensive end. By the time that Leo had scored their last points of the game with eight minutes left in the third, Hasselman’s total running yardage was -1 on 17 carries.
Leo’s defense also forced four turnovers, including DJ Allen forcing two fumbles and picking up a sack, Mason Sheron recovering two fumbles and Logan Barnett intercepting a pass; Alex Holcomb led the defense with 7.5 tackles.
Angola was just 6-of-15 on third down and 3-of-5 on fourth down conversion attempts.
On their offensive side, Leo turned an early lead into a first quarter romp by scoring three touchdowns in the final 5:08 of the first quarter to take the 28-0 lead into the first break. Throughout the night, there didn’t have to be a singular leader in the offensive attack. 11 different Lions registered at least one carry with none of their four lead backs getting more than two carries in the balanced and efficient attack. Ethan Crawford led the way with 95 yards, followed by Kaeden Miller with 89, Carson Hoeppner with 64 and Sheron with 52; Brett Fuller, who had a team high six rushes, ran for 23 yards.
“That is a testament to our guys and how we have been executing this offense. Also it is a testament to the guys up front and how they play. They pride themselves in being physical and controlling the line of scrimmage on every play,” Sauder said. “We were able to put the ball in a lot of guys hands and it didn’t matter because those guys up front were blocking. And in this offense, backs have to block as well and they block for each other and carry out their fakes.”
“I love those guys, they make it happen for sure,” running back Ethan Crawford added about the offensive line.
An offense built on deception, as Sauder said, worked to perfection. With three guys working out of the backfield, Angola was forced to hedge their bets on where the real run was coming from quite a bit. Quarterback Jackson Barbour, while throwing just one pass on Friday night, is also a big part of that. Barbour and the backs worked with their counter movements and fakes that really didn’t even force Leo to grind out short yard gain after short yard gain.
This time, it was actually the long runs, bursting through the holes that Leo set for each other that led to their massive first half scoring.
While Crawford and Miller each only got two touches running the ball each, all four of those carries went for touchdowns. Crawford ran for 55 and 40 yards, both in the first quarter and Miller sprinted out for a 39 yard touchdown in the second quarter and registered Leo’s only second half score with a 50 yard touchdown run four minutes into the third quarter before Leo pulled their first string offense while leading 50-3.
Hoeppner scored on a 32 yard run and Sheron’s touchdown came on a sprint out of 45 yards.
There is certainly something to say about an offense who’s top four backs can combine for 300 yards and six touchdowns on just eight carries.
“Offensively, we can do some things that are pretty special if we can execute this well,” Sauder said.
“It comes down to practice. As a team, it is everybody. It is not just the people on the field, it is the whole team that makes it happen,” Crawford added.