By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
FALKNER – Being more physical than your opponent on the line scrimmage should lead to late-season success.
It certainly did for the Falkner High Eagles on Thursday night against Smithville.
In both teams’ final regular-season contest, the Eagles owned the line of scrimmage in a 34-7 rout of the Seminoles at Falkner High School.
“I felt like the difference in the game was on the line of scrimmage where we were a little more physical,” Eagles head coach Ben Ashley said. “On defense, we were a little more physical and in the running game we were a little more physical.”
The Eagles (9-2, 7-1), who finished second in MHSAA’s Division 1-1A, play the loser of Friday night’s Ray Brooks-Durant game at home in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs. Next week’s playoff game will be the Eagles’ first home postseason contest since 1999.
With a third-place finish in the division, the Seminoles (7-4, 6-2) will travel to the winner of that Ray Brooks-Durant game for the opening round next Friday night.
“Now we’re going to the playoffs and the margin of error goes way down,” Ashley said. “Just like I was telling the kids a little while ago, you don’t have any margin of error because everybody you’ll play is going to be really good.”
Eagles quarterback Kendrick Williams surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season with 16 carries for 99 yards and three touchdowns, and Hunter Hopkins (13 for 59) happened to score on defense, not offense, with a 41-yard interception return in the second quarter.
Jase Stroupe, who had two fumble recoveries on defense, finished things off for the Eagles with a 3-yard run with 37 seconds remaining.
“Our philosophy is to just stay ahead of the chains,” Ashley said of his team’s offense. “Second-and-6, we got no problem with it. We’re really comfortable in second-and-6 and third-and-3 (situations).”
The Seminoles, on the other hand, seemed to allow the Eagles’ offense free yards and to travel backwards themselves on several of their own possessions due to penalties. They had nine penalties for 60 yards.
Tyler Hood did manage to make it a 14-7 game with 5:10 left in the third, as he scored from four yards out. But the Eagles then rattled off 20 unanswered points.