By PAUL STURM
C-T Sports Editor
MARSHALL, Mo. «» Allowing an average of more than 29 points per game spoke volumes as to why the Chillicothe High School football Hornets won only three of 11 games in 2012.
When this year's CHS club began its new season Friday night, its defense scarcely could have done more to hammer home the point they don't intend to let being too generous be a root-cause of a lack of success this fall.
The Hornets' defense provided the first big play of the game with a Kyle Ross interception inside their own 10 on the Marshall Owls' first possession and, led by senior linebacker Cole Nichols' unofficial 14 tackles (nine unassisted), fumble recovery, and interception, shut out the host Owls 21-0 to get the 2013 season off to a fine start.
Free safety Tyler Clampitt also had a CHS takeaway, intercepting a fourth-quarter pass and returning it 33 yards to the MHS 7. Also the Hornets' senior quarterback, he scored on a keeper off left guard on the next play to cap the scoring (with the third of Zach Alperin's conversion kicks).
Chillicothe's defense turned up the heat on Marshall's inexperienced quarterback duo of Zach Glassmaker and Canaan Heinzler, sacking each twice for 21 yards in losses while limiting the Owls to 38 air yards on 3-of-11 success.
In addition to those making the four takeaways, Chillicothe got strong interior line play, including six tackles by junior tackle Chance Holcer, to keep Nichols and fellow inside linebacker Hayden Major (11 tackles, 4 solo) free to range to the ball and solid containment from its defensive ends. Marshall then-senior quarterback Alex Maupin stung the Hornets with option keepers to the edge last year, scoring all four MHS touchdowns in a 26-25 win in Chillicothe.
Offensively, Chillicothe wasn't prolific, but it was opportunistic in the second half after scoring the game's first points just before halftime.
Keyed by Clampitt's 32-yard hookup with Alperin on first-and-10 from the CHS 27 after taking possession with 3:39 to go in the second period, the Hornets drove the ball 71 yards in nine plays to get on top. The payoff came on senior fullback Tyler Long's 8-yard blast off left guard. Alperin's first PAT made it 7-0, Chillicothe, 35 seconds before intermission.
The Hornets then used a big special-teams play to set the stage for expanding their lead in the third quarter.
Sophomore Mason Hayward backtracked to his 25 to gather in Tyler Cott's booming 47-yard punt and, after initially muffing the catch, picked the ball up, dodged one cover man, and sped up the center of the field for big yardage. By the time Cott wrestled him out of bounds with a headlock on the CHS sideline, Hayward had brought the ball back 43 yards. When Cott seemed to give the Hornet's head an extra twist as they fell to the ground, a personal-foul penalty was whistled and the ball ended up at the MHS 17.
Page 2 of 2 - After an offside penalty, DeEll Midgyett, whose slithering 7-yards run around left end on a third-and-6 play had helped set up the Hornets' first touchdown, took a pitchout around right end and went in standing up from 12 yards away with 3:26 to go in the third quarter.
Up 14-0 entering the last 12 minutes, Chillicothe's defense made the Owls use up precious time as the home team inched down the field. The drive sustained by a debatable pass interference call that handed Marshall a first down at the CHS 35 and then a personal-foul flag for action far away from the ball as the Hornets made a no-gain stop on a third-and-2 at their 14, MHS had the ball at the Chillicothe 2 on second down before Nichols made a stop for no gain on a sweep, then dove on the ball when the exchange from center on the third-down play was botched..
Although the victory was nearly certain, given Marshall's offensive struggles, as the clock ticked under five minutes to go, the Hornets iced their victory cake via Clampitt's pick and return and then his carry on the next play. His first interception of this season, after a 9-picks junior year, leaves Clampitt only two behind Doug Switzer as the CHS career leader in the category.
Although throwing the ball only seven times – none after halftime, Chillicothe was able to balance its attack to a solid degree, gaining 85 air yards while rushing for just over twice that much (175). Clampitt connected on four of his seven throws and had a near-TD pass slip through a receiver's hands early.
Most of the yardage came on two completions – an early 41-yarder to Midgyett and the 32-yard strike on which he barely got the ball off and Alperin did an excellent job of shielding the defender from the ball to receive the high-arcing throw.
On the ground, 160-pounds fullback Long was his expected tough-running self despite his size. He finished with 79 yards on 15 carries and the one score after having only 18 yards from his first five totes.
Midgyett also prospered more the longer the game went, getting 58 yards on 10 tries after having only 11 on his first four carries.
As a team, Chillicothe averaged just under five yards a carry behind its almost-all-new interior line.
Chillicothe will look to start the season 2-0 next Friday in its home opener against Kirksville, which defeated Southern Boone Friday.