WEST UNITY – There are reasons as to why there is two halves of a football game…compare and contrast would be one of them. In the first half of their October 19 TAAC throwdown, the first 22 no-shows at Daft Field were the defenses of the Cardinals of Cardinal Stritch and the Hilltop Cadets. In a half where Woody Hayes and Chuck Knox would have been giddy in watching the smash mouth running of both teams, passes were few and far between. They were not really necessary though, as neither defense could put the brakes on the ground pounding of the other. That scenario changed in the second half though, as adjustments made by the Cadet Cadre at the intermission slammed the door on the Cardinals, allowing Hilltop to rally from an 18-14 deficit to take a 28-18 TAAC win.
Stritch got on the board first with a rushing score, but David Smith of Hilltop exploded through a gap for a 31-yard touchdown run. The Justin Ashenfelter kick made it a 7-6 game, but Stritch began the ground campaign anew with the kickoff. They scored early in the second period, but failed again on the PAT, leaving the score at 12-7.
The Cadets again returned to the field, and began a campaign of pounding Chad Champion between the tackles. The strategy worked to a tee, and with Smith getting occasional touches to keep the linebackers honest, Champion found plenty of gaps in the Cardinals’ line to exploit. At the 6:58 mark in the half, he fired off left tackle, cut slightly to the right to duck a linebacker, then took off for a 37-yard score. The Ashenfelter Kick made it 14-12, but the lead did not survive the half. Stritch put together a long drive on nothing but runs that had them knocking on the door as time was expiring. With 53 seconds remaining in the half, Stritch scored again. Their fake PAT kick failed, making the score 18-14 at the half.
Stritch was unable to crack the Hilltop goal line in the second half, and the Cadets continued to use Champion as the thunder to the lightning of Smith. With 7:35 left in the third, Smith scored his second touchdown of the night on a seven-yard run. The Ashenfelter kick made it 21-18, and the Cadets never looked back. The final score of the evening came in the fourth as Stritch was driving the ball deep into Hilltop territory. The wet football was jarred loose, and Logan Brooker scooped it up at his own 20 and ran it back for an 80-yard touchdown. The Ashenfelter kick closed out the scoring on the night at 28-18.
Champion had a career night rushing the ball, going 24 times for 207 yards and a score…an average of 8.6 yards a touch. Smith went 7 times for 47 yards and two scores, Mikel Burlew ran 6 times for 13 yards, and
Will McKinney ran once for 3 yards. Billy Wagner came off the injured list to snag two Burlew passes for 44 yards and lead the defense with 9 stops. Smith also registered an interception for the Cadets.
The Cadets close out the season with a Senior Night celebration on October 26, with the Lakers of Danbury the honored guests.