Prep football: Cougars zap Zeps 39-14

NEW MATAMORAS – The goal of every football coach heading into the season is to make sure that their team is well conditioned, disciplined, and prepared to execute when the Friday night lights come on for good each August.

Frontier head coach Todd Bradford had to be quite pleased as his Cougars passed all three with flying colors Friday night as they opened the season with a near flawless first half en route to a 39-14 Pioneer Valley Conference victory over the Shenandoah Zeps at Cougar Field.

The Cougars won the coin toss and promptly drove 80 yards for a touchdown and then never looked back as they put up 27 unanswered points in the opening half.

“I’m very proud of the way our kids came out tonight,” said Bradford of his team’s performance. “It was just a very good team effort from the beginning.”

The Cougars used the one-two punch of Dakota Boley and Rodney Barnes on the opening drive as the duo combined for all 80 yards, the last nine coming on a pass from junior quarterback Mitch Reynolds to Barnes to make it a 7-0 game.

Shenandoah’s opening drive lasted all of one play as quarterback Blake Rossiter’s pass was intercepted by Frontier defensive back Dylan Absher to give the Cougars the ball at the Shenandoah 39- yard line.

Eight plays later the Cougars struck again as Boley scampered in from three-yards out to make it a 14-0 game.

The Cougars third score of the half was again set up by a turnover as senior Mitch Minder intercepted a Rossiter pass early in the third quarter to once again give Frontier the ball in Shenandoah territory.

This time it would be a different duo for the Cougars who racked up all the yardage as seniors Dakota Welker and Jared Howell accounted for all 40-yards on the five-play scoring drive including Welker’s 8-yard run that sent them out front by a 21-0 margin.

Barnes returned a punt 44 yards to set up the final Cougar score of the first half, a 5-yard run by Howell to make it 27-0 at halftime.

While the Cougar offense was performing at a high level, so was the defense as they held the Zeps to under 20 yards of total offense and just one first down in the first half.

The Zeps began to show a little life of their own on the opening drive of the second half as they drove 58-yards on nine plays with junior Ethan McKee breaking free for an 8-yard touchdown run with 7:18 to play in the third quarter to cut the lead to 27-7.

The Cougars answered with a 67-yard, eight-play drive of their own with Barnes collecting his second touchdown of the game on a nine-yard run to send the lead back to 26 points at 33-7.

Sophomore running back Michael Vanfossen gave the Shenandoah faithful something to cheer about when he burst through the line and rambled 60-yards for the second Zep score of the third quarter.

“He’s (Vanfossen) still young but he is going to be a special kid,” said second- year Shenandoah head coach Kaleb Lawrence. “We’ve just got to keep the line blocking and get him as many carries as we can.”

Frontier drove the final nail in the Zeps coffin in the final period as Howell notched his second score of the night on a 12-yard run with 2:43 to play.

Howell led the Cougars in rushing with 131 yards on just 12 carries, while Barnes added 74 rushing yards, 47 receiving yards, in addition to the big punt return and a stellar night of defense.

“He’s a good player and we’re real glad to have him,” said Bradford of Barnes, who returned to Frontier this season after spending last year at Warren High School. “He definitely stepped up a little bit tonight.”

Reynolds completed 4-of-11 passes in the game for the Cougars for 52 yards.

Vanfossen led the way for the Zeps with a game-high 133 yards on 15 carries.

Lawrence was disappointed with the Zeps play in the opening half, but pleased with their no quit effort in a second half that saw them out score the Cougars by a 14-12 margin.

“We made a lot of little mistakes early, maybe had the early game jitters,” said Lawrence. “To our credit in the second half our guys stepped up. Now we just have to figure out how to do it for four quarters.”

The Cougars will look for victory number two next week when they play host to Steubenville Catholic, while the Zeps will open their home season when they welcome the Newcomerstown Trojans to Sarahsville.