BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
SANDUSKY — Leading by just six points at halftime, the Danbury Lakers came out with a vengeance in the second half and defeated St. Mary Central Catholic, 40-8.
The Lakers, behind a rushing attack that saw them accumulate 264 yards, outscored the Panthers 26-0 in the final two quarters as they wore SMCC down.
It was the first 8-man football game for Danbury, which made the switch during the offseason.
Laker running back Will Tibbels, who carried the ball six times for 68 yards and three touchdowns, scored the game’s first two touchdowns in the first quarter, giving Danbury (1-0) a 14-0 lead. SMCC (0-1) cut the deficit to six points when Ayden Kresser scored on a 20-yard run and Kresser hooked up with Andrew Fullam on the two-point conversion.
But the Lakers dominated the second half, scoring two touchdowns in each of the final two quarters. Cole Shortridge (11 carries, 70 yards, TD) scored on a 25-yard run to push the lead to 20-8, and Cade McCarthy (8 carries, 49 yards, TD) caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kaden Conrad (110 total yards, 2 TD). Tibbels added a 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and Jacob Michler later scored on a 2-yard run.
Danbury coach Keith Mora talked about what he said to his players at halftime.
“It was a pretty clear message. One, we’re playing fantastic defense. In a week one game, there are always areas where you aren’t where you want to be. Our message was to our defense. You’re playing a great game. Don’t let a bad offensive drive carry over and create a bad defensive drive,” said Mora. “But offensively, we have a veteran group. We told them, we know our job, we’re one or two people away from breaking things big. You’re not completing the play, and that’s what is causing us to not get more yards. It was offensive guys finishing the play and the veteran guys taking over.”
“We talk to the kids every single day, and we watch the film. That is what we’re talking about — take a team’s punch in the first quarter, and in the second quarter. If you wear them out, you see what happens in the third and fourth quarters. It’s going to be a situation where we start to take the game over.
It was promising to see Tibbels play so well after battling injuries for the last two years.
“He had a tremendous welcome back party. He missed five weeks of the 2018 season and was injured last year, too. Really, he hasn’t had a season where he was completely healthy since his freshman year,” said Mora. “I was super excited to see how gritty and tough he is. Those kids tend to fade away because they’ve always got the injury on their mind. I want to say he had about 12 tackles and he was one of our better rushers on the day. He was helping our team out on both sides of the ball.”
Mora also credited D.J. Webster for his play.
“He had a really solid game defensively. On offense, he did some things really well. If he gets clicking, if he applies himself to reach that next level, I’ll start to get calls from colleges,” said Mora. “He did some really good things for us and was finding space between the offensive linemen.”
Panthers coach Toby Hammond previously served as the Lakers’ offensive coordinator.
“It was definitely an interesting situation, matching up against Coach Hammond and him knowing so much about our team,” said Mora. “He did so much for us. I think they’re going to get things turned around. They’re a very young team.”
This Friday, the Lakers host Stryker, which is located in Williams County, 56 miles west of Toledo. The Panthers are in the Buckeye Border Conference for all sports except football. Stryker is part of the Northern 8 Football Conference with Danbury, Holgate and Toledo Christian.
“We just got the film on Stryker. They’re a little bit different from St. Mary. They like to move the ball a little more through the air. It forces us to think to ourselves, did they see something about Holgate that made them want to throw the ball more, or is that how they usually do it? It will pose a different kind of threat to us,” said Mora. “St. Mary didn’t throw the ball very much. Our defensive line will be tested in a different way. Being able to fill the gaps and stop the run will be important. They are pretty young, they’re young in terms of playing football in general. They’re hungry to have success. We told our players, don’t sleep on these guys because they’re going to be hungry.”