July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Hornets hammer visiting Green

GRANGER TWP. — It takes some coaches several years to put their stamp on a prep football program.

Tom Lombardo needed exactly six weeks to get the job done at Highland.

Lombardo’s Hornets put together a true signature win Friday night, overpowering and outplaying Green 42-14 in a Suburban League game.

Highland (3-3, 2-1) amassed 300 rushing yards, collected 32 first downs and put together four touchdown drives of at least 11 plays in beating the Bulldogs (2-4, 1-2) for the first time in six seasons.

“This win means Highland football is back,” said Hornets running back Chris Snook, who gained a career-high 179 yards on 38 carries. “Our offensive line was something to see tonight. They came harder than (Green’s) defensive line the whole way.

“Honestly, it’s tough to run as many plays as we did and stay fresh, but our O-line did it.”

Thanks to its horses up front, Highland ran a whopping 74 plays, recorded its most first downs in 40 years, and imposed its will at every opportunity.

Linemen Rick Holland, Erich Gutwein, D.J. Harrison, Alex Cejer and Matt Crowder and tight end Tyler Houska owned the line of scrimmage as the Hornets held the football for 34:23 of the 48-minute game.

“The whole line stepped up and just dominated,” Cejer said. “This is the start of something big. Coach Lombardo keeps telling us we can win the rest of our league games. If we play like this, it’s very doable.”

Snook and tailback Ben Brown both rushed for two touchdowns, while quarterback Nick Knerem threw a 63-yard score to Matt Gorbe and finished with 148 yards through the air.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had in a football game,” said a beaming Brown, whose 93 rushing yards were a career best. “Coach Lombardo told me to be ready because Green was going to focus on Chris the whole time. I was prepared, and our offensive line was amazing.”

Highland’s brute force allowed it to put together four classic scoring drives — one in each quarter — that totaled more than 29 minutes.

o In the first, the Hornets had a 17-play, 74-yard, 8:09 drive that ended with Brown’s 1-yard score.

o In the second, they ran off 11 plays, gained 66 yards and took 5:14 off the clock before Brown found the end zone from 10 yards out.

o Highland’s third-quarter gem consisted of 15 plays, 75 yards and 7:00, finishing on Snook’s 6-yard TD. 

o Fittingly, the Hornets saved their best for last with a 16-play, 80-yard drive over 8:55 of the fourth. Snook powered in from 5 yards to send the fans home very happy.

“We always stress to the kids to be consistent, play physical and to finish your blocks and plays,” Lombardo said. “Sometimes you wonder if the message is getting through, but tonight the light switch seemed to flick on for everybody. It was a total team effort, and I’m so proud of the guys.”

Highland also got a 44-yard interception return for a TD from Jedidiah Lohnes and a 6-for-6 performance on extra points from Eric Duale.

Rounding out the amazing outing, the defense limited Green to four first downs in the first three quarters. The only points the Hornets allowed came on a 100-yard kickoff return by Adam Spray and a 21-yard TD pass from Jesse Mason to Garrett Cook.

“To do this against a good team like Green that is well coached and has a great winning tradition, it’s special,” Lombardo said. “We needed a win like that to take the next step. It was a challenge, and the guys accepted it tonight.”