McLauchlin, Hancock power Indians past Tigers, 26-21

The St. Stephens’ backfield pairing of Zak McLauchlin (21, left) and Matthew Hancock (35, right) powered the home team to the close victory on Friday, September 20. (Photos by Cody S. Dalton/ CSD Photography)
Cody Dalton
O-N-E Contributor

Echoing the motto of his favorite NFL team, Zak McLauchlin just kept pounding on Friday night.

The St. Stephens junior running back tallied 188 rushing yards and two second-half touchdowns, leading the Indians to a 26-21 victory against rival Fred T. Foard.

“We needed this (win) really bad going into conference play with our hopes up,” McLauchlin said. “We are 2-2. We are looking forward to conference play.”

The Indians (2-2) tallied 394 total yards, including 284 of those on the ground — 188 rushing yards from McLauchlin and 116 from teammate Matthew Hancock.

McLauchlin credited his play to the performance of the Indians offensive line.

“Our offensive line — they were a big factor in this game,” he said. “They made some beautiful holes. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Saint reached the scoreboard first, taking a 7-0 lead on a first-quarter 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Connor Williams to wide receiver Zach Lee.

Foard answered with its lone score of the first half when Brandon Alderman scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with nine minutes left in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7.

However, the Indians answered with an eight-play drive capped by a one-yard quarterback sneak by Williams to take a six-point lead into the locker room after a missed extra point.

The Tigers (0-5) responded to take their first and only lead of the game behind the rushing attack of senior Corey Siemer, who scored on a four-yard touchdown run with 7:08 left in the third quarter.

Siemer finished Friday’s game with 180 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Responding almost immediately, McLauchlin scored just one minute, 51 seconds later on a nine-yard run to give his team back a lead it did not surrender.

“We knew they were going fight,” McLauchlin said of Foard. “Give credit to them. They played good in the second half, too. We played it like it was 0-0 and kept fighting. We moved the ball successfully.”

When it wasn’t the Indians’ offense making plays, it was its defense stepping up.

On the next Foard drive, the Tigers drove into the red zone, but turned the ball over when quarterback Will Frye was intercepted by Saint’s Gavin Marley in the end zone.

The takeaway eventually led to McLauchlin’s biggest play of the game — a 41-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left in the third quarter that gave St. Stephens its first double-digit lead of the contest.

“We ran it so much that I was hoping to break one,” McLauchlin said of his long touchdown. “I saw the hole and hit it hard. I felt a little slow at first, but it felt good.”

The Tigers wouldn’t go away quietly, though, pulling within 26-21 after Siemer scored on a six-yard touchdown run with 5:46 left in the game. The score was set up by an Indians fumble on a mishandled snap.

Responding yet again, it was McLauchlin and the Indians’ rushing attack that would help to seal the non-conference home victory.

Driving down the field and running out the clock, the Indians faced a 4th and 4 at the Foard 38 with just one minute, 49 seconds left.

Sensing his team’s urgency and knowing his number was being called, McLauchlin took the hand off and ran six yards for the first down, helping Saint close out its second victory of the season.

“That fourth down was big,” McLauchlin said. “It shut down the ball game and didn’t give (Foard) a chance to score again. Give credit to Matthew (Hancock), too. He got us some big yards that drive.”

Fresh off its rivalry win, the Indians will try to continue their momentum when they open conference play this Friday with a road contest at Freedom (3-2).

Meanwhile, the Tigers are still searching for their first win of the season when they travel to Morganton to face Patton (1-3) in their Northwestern Foothills 2A opener.