In a game that was more a victory lap than a competitive contest, the Sheldon Irish (9-0 overall, 7-0 league) finalized their undefeated regular season record by demolishing the visiting Grants Pass Cavemen (3-6 overall, 3-5 league). Blowout wins are nothing new for the Irish – seven of their nine wins this year were by 35+ points – but even so it’s a rare thing to be able to say that a 62-7 win wasn’t anywhere near as close as its final score would seem to indicate.
“We were expecting them to play hard and fight until they couldn’t fight anymore,” said Sheldon quarterback Taylor Allie after the game. “We just came out and overpowered them.”
The first play from scrimmage set the tone for the rest of the game. After the snap, Allie dropped back into the safety of a pocket so strongly protected that he had enough time to complete both a play-action fake and an end-around fake before rainbowing a pass deep downfield to wide receiver Mitchell Herbert for a 55-yard touchdown.
“We just noticed on film that they [Grants Pass’ defenders] had a lot of eyes in the backfield,” explained Sheldon head coach Lane Johnson. “We see teams with eyes in the backfield, we run a lot of play action stuff.”
Allie’s recollection of the play was far less strategic. “I saw Mitchell Herbert had a five yard cushion,” he said with a laugh, “and with that great of a receiver that’s all I need. I just threw it out there to him and let him do the rest.”
After a three-and-out by Grants Pass, Sheldon retook the field at their own 28 yard line. Three Allie passes and an 8-yard scoring run by star running back Connor Strahm later, the Irish were up 14-0. Another three-and-out by the visiting team ensued, to which the Irish responded with a second Allie-to-Herbert touchdown pass from 35 yards out.
From there, the situation began to deteriorate at an almost exponential rate for the Cavemen. Their next drive, which was marred by a one-play benching of their quarterback Ben Glaeser for removing his helmet on the field, ended after six plays with an interception returned for a touchdown by Sheldon defensive back Mitch Lewis. The drive after that ended after four plays when Glaeser, pressured up the middle by two charging defenders, made a panicked throwaway attempt that ended up in the arms of Sheldon DB Liam Talty, who returned the interception for a touchdown.
Grants Pass was able to maintain some dignity by punting the ball away after six plays on their next possession, but Allie soon rendered that moot two plays later by throwing a short pass to Mitch Lewis, who juked his way 30 yards downfield for a touchdown. That score put the Irish up by an insurmountable 42-0 lead, and amazingly enough there was still 1:57 left to play in the first quarter.
“I was surprised that we got 42 in the first quarter, but us coming out and getting after them didn’t surprise me at all,” said Coach Johnson. “We don’t ever expect that [scoring so many points], but we sure like it when it happens.”
Sheldon eased off the throttle soon thereafter and began subbing in its backups, but the team still managed to rack up a few more scores. In the second quarter, Yadie Dunmore scored a rushing touchdown from three yards out, and the Irish added two more TDs in the third quarter, one on a short pass from Joseph Kuehn to Spencer Clark and the second on a ten yard run by Chico Barajas.
On the other side of the field, the Cavemen looked increasingly frustrated and dejected as the game wore on. One of the few bright spots for Grants Pass was the play of QB Hunter Rich, who subbed in for Glaeser at the beginning of the second quarter. Rich was unable to lead any scoring drives, but no matter how much the Irish defenders knocked him around he continued to battle gamely both with his arm and his legs. The Cavemen’s lone score of the night was on an 11-yard run by Bean Dean with 1:24 left to go in the fourth quarter.
Next up, the Sheldon Irish have a week off while they wait to learn who their first opponent of the postseason will be.