BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
SANDUSKY — After going the entire year without a victory, Danbury finished the season on a high note, defeating St. Mary Central Catholic, 52-36, in an 8-man football game.
Quarterback Tommy Owens was the star of the game, carrying the ball 27 times and rushing for 339 yards and scoring on five touchdown runs (8, 14, 63, 30 and 10 yards).
The teams alternated scores, but the Lakers (1-9) took the lead for good on the first score, an 8-yard touchdown run by Owens. Owens then ran it in for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
The Panthers (2-6) cut the deficit to two points when Jackson Rutger caught a 54-yard pass from Kyle Pelz before failing on the conversion.
Cole Shortridge (21 carries, 105 yards, TD) scored on a 2-yard run and ran in the conversion to make it 16-6.
Pelz scored on a 44-yard run to cut the deficit to four points, and the teams went back and forth before a 10-yard touchdown run by Owens made it 52-36.
The success of the offense has come as a result of the change to a more run-oriented offense.
“What happens when we can level the playing field, and play a team our size? We finished this year off 1-0. I told the kids, ‘There’s a silver lining to this and we learned how tough we are.’ The physical pounding we took this year, we are going to be better for it,” said Danbury coach Keith Mora. “I thought our kids did a nice job coming to that challenge and playing hard all night. I thought our line came off the ball really hard. They played really tough football.”
Mora had high praise for Owens, who was converted to a quarterback a few weeks ago after Kaden Conrad got hurt.
“It was pretty incredible. We started installing this Wing-T version of 8-man football. We started playing him at quarterback in Week 7 after Kaden went down. He’s a tremendous athlete, we just wanted to get the ball in his hands,” said Mora. “Once we got out of the air raid stuff, he’s been the one getting the ball the majority of the season. We had a lot of misdirection, and our backs did a nice job sealing the backside. If the other seven guys don’t do those things, Tommy doesn’t have success.
“The one thing I told the kids after the game, I told them how proud I was. Football provides life lessons, and I told the guys after the game, so many times in your life when it’s miserable and extremely difficult, football teaches you to keep coming back for more.” said Mora.
“We didn’t have guys quit on each other like we could’ve had. There are other teams out there just like us right now. Our locker room has a bunch of guys that haven’t quit on each other. The sport teaches something where you learn a little bit about grit, and that’s what this year was about for us.”