OSSIAN – It's safe to say Leo High School's football team has reloaded.
The Lions took a fairly large hit to graduation, but the players waiting in the wings – and some big guys returning on the line – made a huge first impression for 2013. The Lions whipped the Norwell Knights 42-6 on Friday at Norwell.
“I was real proud of our guys in all three phases of the game,” Leo coach Jared Sauder said.
Let's break down those three phases, starting with the tone-setter:
1. Special teams.
Leo senior Chandler Fields took the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. It was a play that stunned the home crowd and put all sorts of energy into the Leo sideline.
“We try to preach a little bit of urgency,” Sauder said. “Get off right away and get our confidence up.”
The Lions have turned over the keys to junior quarterback Jordan Hissong and they put him in a luxury car of sorts. His offensive line of Greg Robertson, Klay Biggins, Jacob Witte, Logan Glaze and Bryce Hager gave him the openings on the option, and he made the most of them.
Hissong rushed 14 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't throw much (3-for-6 for 27 yards) but hit Fields for a six-yard score.
Hissong was the junior varsity quarterback a year ago, playing in the varsity only in mop-up situations.
He pointed to the offensive line with high praise.
“They're big, they're physical, and they kept them off me,” Hissong said.
Leo ran 52 times for 264 yards (5.1 per carry). Rance Harris rushed for 86 yards and Logan Leiter scored twice.
“With a young quarterback, we kind of put it on our offensive line,” Sauder said. “There's five seniors up there, two of them three-year starters. That's a lot of experience. We told them, 'You take control,' and they did a great job.”
The Lions picked off four of Norwell quarterback Piercen Harnish's passes and limited him to 44 yards in the air. The picks were by Logan Wood, Matt Lichti, Fields and Jordan Eldridge.
They allowed only one big play – Harnish's 80-yard touchdown run for the Knights' lone score.
“They were giving us good field position,” Hissong said. “I think they can do that all year. They're real aggressive and they know where they're supposed to be and they know their assignments.”
Other than Harnish's 80-yard run, Norwell's only significant offensive drive came to open the second half, when Harnish completed three passes, ran a couple times and moved Norwell to the Leo 24. But Leo tipped his fourth-and-six pass to end the drive. Harnish rushed 11 times for 146 yards, but was 4-for-16 passing.
Norwell had five turnovers. Leo had none.
““(Leo) didn't have any breakdowns and they made the plays when they needed to.” Norwell coach Jeff Miller said. “We're not happy with the way we started, but I think we'll see a lot of mistakes were our own and we can get rid of those.”
Leo plays Angola at home next week while Norwell travels to Heritage.