ADNA — Led by a completely dominant defensive effort, and an offense that finally got out of its own way in the second half, the No. 6 Toledo football team shut out No. 9 Adna on its homecoming, 18-0, Friday night.
After a first half filled with punts, turnovers, and stalled drives, the Riverhawks finally found a groove in an otherwise arrhythmic game.
Geoffrey Glass cashed in the game’s first score in the third quarter, running in a touchdown by seven yards out after a grind of a drive, but the turning point, and final dagger for the Pirates, was in the fourth.
Backed up into their own end zone, a short Riverhawks punt was fielded by Adna’s Seth Meister, who took it all the way to the Toledo 27-yard line midway through the fourth, staring down a 6-0 deficit.
On the cusp of taking a lead after struggling to finish drives all night, that drive turned into more of the same for the Pirates, who will be having nightmares about the Riverhawk pass rush. Quarterback Lane Johnson was sacked, the Pirates committed a false start, and after two incompletions and a throw short of the sticks, Adna gave it right back to Toledo.
On the next play, Riverhawk quarterback Austin Norris took it 73 yards for a house call, and helped Toledo to a seemingly insurmountable two-score lead late. Norris would tack on another score in the final moments to add to his nine carry, 131 rushing total, and the 18-0 win.
“I have full faith in our defense, I felt really good about our defense by the time the second half was going,” Riverhawks coach Mike Christensen said. “I wasn’t too concerned, I just knew we needed to stop them. I felt offensively that as long as we didn’t commit penalties we could score, it's so much easier if you score in one play.”
But the theme of the game — for the Riverhawks for a half, and for Adna for the full 48 minutes — were offenses that couldn’t put the finishing touches on long drives.
At the half, alone, the teams combined for three punts, four turnovers, and four turnovers on downs. The Pirates had multiple opportunities to score in the red zone or in Riverhawk territory, and couldn’t capitalize.
“They’re a great athletic group of kids who are well-coached, so to shut them out is a big deal,” Christensen said. “In this league, if you can hit a pass you can score a touchdown. We held up really well in the backend with our defensive backs, and the pressure our front line was putting on the quarterback made it tough for them. That’s the key.”
Cap on two timely runs from its senior first-year starter at quarterback in Norris, and Toledo has itself just one win away from a league championship after a season-opening defeat to Raymond-South Bend.
“At the start of the season when we took that first loss, we all realized that we never wanted that to happen again,” Norris said. “When we came back out after halftime we knew that we were going down that same path and we needed to change something. If we keep going on as our leaders keep going on, the season will keep going on great.”
The Pirates, meanwhile, will have to pick up the pieces after another frustrating showing on offense. Johnson completed just eight of his 31 passes for 107 yards, and threw two interceptions. Though Adna won the turnover and field position battle for most of the night, it couldn’t get out of its own way, and struggled when it got into plus-territory.
Seth Meister had two big catches for 51 yards, Gavan Muller caught three for 26 yards, and Jaxon Dunnagan ran it nine times for 26 yards.
“Super physical game,” Pirates coach Jason Dunnagan said. “My guys played hard until the end. Gotta hand it to Toledo, they are well-coached. We had opportunities and just need to capitalize on them.”
With the playoff picture getting clearer by the week, Toledo (5-1, 3-0 SWW South) will play defending state champion Kalama next week for a league title, while Adna (4-3, 1-1 SWW South) hopes to find a rhythm against Onalaska on the road next Friday.