Catholic defense overwhelms Strafford in home opener shutout

by Dana Harding Springfield, Mo. — Someone might want to check that new turf at Springfield Catholic.

The Fightin’ Irish scored four touchdowns in the first half against Strafford, en route to a 42-0 shutout victory.

Catholic’s defense and special teams were especially dominant, scoring twice and holding the Indians and dynamic quarterback Kensen White to a paltry 75 yards of offense.

Casey Console, in particular, was a disruptive force on defense for the Irish. The senior linebacker, tasked with shadowing White, spent most of the first half wreaking havoc in the Strafford backfield and finished with three sacks.

Whenever White tried to roll out of the pocket, Console was there to meet him.

“Senior year, first game … I was kind of nervous at first,” Console said. “But after I got that first sack it all went away, and I just went crazy from there.”

Considering Catholic’s blistering start, crazy might be an understatement.

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Less than a minute into the contest, Hunter Puckett and Lincoln Jones combined to force and recover a fumble deep in Strafford territory.

Three plays later, Puckett rumbled across the goal line for an Irish touchdown.

Early score aside, Catholic’s defense was just getting started.

With less than a minute remaining in the opening quarter and Strafford punting from its own 35, Irish head coach Steve Hancock brought the horses.

Isaiah Whiteley led a trio of Irish defenders into the backfield and blocked the attempt. The ball skipped back to the Strafford goal line, where Nick Crites was able to scoop it up and fall into the end zone.

Catholic head coach Steve Hancock knew the play could be a difference-maker in the game.

“We feel like the biggest momentum-changer in the game comes from the kicking game,” Hancock said. “We believe in putting pressure on the punter and going for it. Even if you don’t get a block, you usually create bad punts.”

After quarterback Tyson Riley scored on a two-yard plunge in the second quarter, the Irish defense rose up once again when Hunter Brown jumped a passing lane and brought back an interception 20 yards for a second defensive score.

While Catholic would add two more scores in the second half, the damage was mostly done in the game’s first two quarters.

Catholic’s offense for 216 yards on the ground and another 51 through the air. Nick Crites led the Irish rushing attack with 109 yards on 11 carries.

Hancock praised his team’s overall effort after the big win.

“We look at all three phases of our game tonight,” Hancock said. “We got big production out of the defense; they played great. We got good production out of our kicking game with a blocked punt that set us up for a score, and then our offense did some good things, too. It’s just one of those nights where all three came together for us, and that really pays off.”

For Strafford, the opening week loss provides an opportunity to learn, refocus and improve, according to head coach Tim Hester.

“We had some mistakes out there; miscues on a couple plays,” Hester said. “It just became a snowball. When we started doing something a little bit here and there, it just fizzled away, and the snowball kept going downhill. It’s just something we’ve got to learn from; get back up, find out what our mistakes were and get better from it.”

Week two provides another round of stiff tests for both teams. Catholic (1-0) hosts Mount Vernon, while Strafford (0-1) heads to Mountain Grove.

Catholic – 42, Strafford – 0

Catholic 14 14 7 7 –42
Strafford 0 0 0 0 — 0

First quarter scoring
Catholic Hunter Puckett 9-yd TD run 7 – 0 (Logan Brock kick)
Catholic Nick Crites 1-yd blocked punt recovery TD 14 – 0 (Logan Brock kick)
Second quarter scoring
Catholic Tyson Riley 2-yd TD run 21 – 0 (Logan Brock kick)
Catholic Hunter Puckett 26-yd interception return TD 28- 0 (Logan Brock kick)
Third quarter scoring
Catholic Isaiah Whiteley 4-yd TD run 35- 0 (2pt conversion failed)
Fourth quarter scoring
Catholic Jacob Straus 20-yd TD run 42 – 0 (PAT missed)