Incline football players could hardly wait to hit someone.
After their season-opening game and scrimmage were canceled due to wildfire smoke, they finally got that chance Saturday. And they made the most of it.
The Highlanders jumped out to a 13-0 first-quarter lead and never looked back en route to a 34-12 Northern Division III win at Silver Stage.
“The kids had some first-game jitters, but overall they played real well,” said Incline coach Scott Conn, who pulled as many starters as he could after the Highlanders scored on their opening drive of the third quarter.
Incline received solid performances from junior quarterback Jack Clouthier, who finished 12-of-19 for 110 yards and two touchdowns, and junior tight end Ben Snyder, who had five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.
“Jack had a fantastic game, and Ben Snyder did everything we expected him to at the tight end position,” Conn said.
Senior running back Kevin Kurashewich, meanwhile, rushed for a team-high 85 yards on 18 attempts, with two TDs, and sophomore Owen Graffis tallied 63 yards rushing on 13 attempts and 46 yards receiving on six catches, with one TD.
While the Highlanders did not break off any huge plays, they marched the ball down the field methodically and consistently throughout the contest. They gained 26 first downs while turning the ball over on downs only once. Incline did not punt once, and the team committed only one penalty.
“I kept waiting for the long run, but it never happened,” Conn said. “We just chipped away.”
After missing a field goal on its first drive, Incline got on the board with an eight-yard touchdown connection from Clouthier to Snyder. The Highlanders added a second touchdown in the opening quarter on a five-yard run by Kurashewich.
Graffis scored Incline’s third TD on a five-yard reception from Clouthier, and Kurashewich found the end zone once again from six yards out to give the visitors a 27-6 lead entering the half. Silver Stage ended the shutout with a touchdown in the second quarter.
Incline received the kickoff to start the second half and promptly drove down the field, capping the drive with a one-yard run by Clouthier. Krista Conn kicked through the PAT, and Incline led 34-6. The Nighthawks managed a second touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Highlanders’ second team.
Coach Conn named junior linebacker Joe Sunseri his defensive player of the game, as he finished with five tackles and two sacks while generally causing havoc in the Nighthawks’ backfield. Sophomore defensive end Charlie Zendner also played a mean defensive game, Conn said, eventually causing Silver Stage to avoid running his direction. He had four tackles and was in on a sack. Snyder recorded six tackles.
Clouthier was named the Highlanders’ overall player of the game, and Kurashewich was the offensive player of the game.
Incline will play a nonleague game at Quincy on Friday at 7 p.m. The Highlanders host their home opener the following Friday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. against ROP.