Mechanicsburg routs Kenton Ridge for second straight year

Quarterback Aaron Conley puts finishing touches on season-opening win with two TD runs

Coach Kurt Forrest handed out high fives — sometimes two at once — to each of his Mechanicsburg football players as they ran to a post-game huddle on Friday night.

» PHOTOS: Indians vs. Cougars

For the second straight year, the Indians opened the season with a rout of their neighbors to the south, the Kenton Ridge Cougars. Fourteen miles on Route 4 separate the two schools, but they have been much further apart on the scoreboard in 2018 and 2019. A 27-3 victory for Mechanicsburg on Friday followed a 54-14 victory a year ago.

That's a combined score of 81-17, though the second game was competitive for a half. Kenton Ridge had plenty of chances to build a lead in the first half thanks to four Mechanicsburg turnovers, but trailed 6-3 at halftime.

"They converted on our turnovers, and we failed to convert on their turnovers," Kenton Ridge coach Joel Marratta said.

» WEEK ONE: Springfield wins big | Greenon tops Shawnee | Wayne falls to Colerain

A promising first drive by Kenton Ridge ended with an interception deep in Mechanicsburg territory. The Cougars were stopped on 4th-and-2 on their second drive. Then they twice drove the ball inside the Mechanicsburg 10-yard line in the first half only to come away with one 27-yard field goal by Brandon Gibson. That kick gave the Cougars a 3-0 lead in the second quarter.

Forrest blamed his team's bad practice habits for putting it in negative situations early in the game but praised the team for overcoming adversity.

"These kids are unbelievably mentally tough," he said "Our defense fought their freaking tales off, and if there's another defense that holds that offense to three points the rest of the year, I'll be shocked."

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Mechanicsburg took the lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by Chayse Propst with 38.2 seconds left in the second quarter. That score turned the momentum, and the Indians built on it in the second half, scoring three unanswered touchdowns.

Jake Hurst scored on a 7-yard run with 3:59 left in the third quarter. Kenton Ridge’s next possession ended with an interception by Logan Hurst.

Then Kenton Ridge forced a punt, but the ball bounced and hit a Kenton Ridge player, allowing Mechanicsburg to recover it deep in Kenton Ridge territory.

Quarterback Aaron Conley scored on a 4-yard run in the final minute of the quarter to extend the lead to 20-3. Conley added a 4-yard touchdown run with 8:05 left in the fourth quarter.

» SEASON PREVIEW: Cougars hope to return to playoffs

The loss costs Kenton Ridge an early chance to build a playoff resume. Mechanicsburg earned its sixth straight playoff bid last season in part because of its victory against Kenton Ridge. The Cougars won four straight after losing to Mechanicsburg but then lost four of their last five games to miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

"Potentially, this game has playoff implications in the end," Marratta said. "They're going to win a lot of ballgames, and hopefully, we're going to respond in a positive way to a hard defeat and come back next week and get back on track."

In week two, Mechanicsburg stays at home to play Urbana, a Champaign County neighbor it hasn’t played since 1999, and Kenton Ridge plays its home opener against Carlisle. The Cougars beat Carlisle 44-0 last season.

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