SALAMANCA — An all-new offensive line didn’t show its inexperience Friday night in Randolph’s season opener, and the Cardinals feasted on some mistakes to pull away from Salamanca in the Warriors’ debut under coach Chad Bartoszek.
Never completing a pass Friday night, Randolph instead ground up Salamanca for 246 rushing yards and held a 3-0 turnover advantage to turn a back-and-forth first half into a 40-13 Cardinals victory.
Randolph coach Brent Brown considered the line his biggest question mark entering the season, as he started two seniors (Christian Andrews and Jason Ploetz), two freshmen (Jaiden Huntington and Ryan Carpenter) and a junior (Wyatt Adams) up front on offense, all for the first time.
“All five of them are new,” Brown said. “On both sides of the ball, we were worried about that. We’ve got some speed and some pretty good skill kids, but that was the big thing right there, and I think we’ll get better every week. If you ask them, they’ll probably tell you no, but I’m sure they were pretty nervous. Some of those kids, the last game they played was in midgets last fall.”
Randolph led 22-13 at halftime and shut out Salamanca in the second half. Three big plays for the Cardinals — or disastrous for the Warriors — put the game out of hand. First, Randolph’s Isaac Hind returned the half’s opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Later, Tyler Hind snagged an interception at midfield and ran it back for a 52-yard touchdown. Then the Cardinals sealed the deal with a two-yard touchdown run on the first play after a botched Salamanca punt snap gave them a turnover on downs near the goal line.
Randolph looked noticeably smaller on the line than Salamanca, but held the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
“It hasn’t been that way for a long time,” Brown said, referring to his team’s size, “but they still did a good job, and you’ve got to give some credit to our quarterback (Tyler Hind), we run the option, he reads that pretty well and that’s what we did most of our damage with. Well, that and a kickoff return and a pick-six didn’t hurt things, because it was a tight game at half.”
Both coaches pointed to the kickoff return as the turning point in the game. Salamanca’s kick sailed over the heads of Randolph’s returners, but Isaac Hind broke a tackle in front of his own goal line and quickly ran past a swarm of defenders, untouched the rest of the way.
“You out-kick your coverage,” Bartoszek said. “That’s a tackle at the one, down nine points, and that’s forcing them to go 99. Instead, it’s an absolute gut-punch. Isaac Hind, good athlete, who made a great play, and that’s a killer. It’s hard to get your kids to come up and rise to the occasion after that. That really puts you down in a hole and you’re no longer a couple plays away, you’ve got to grind one out.”
In addition to their defensive and special teams touchdowns, cousins Tyler Hind and Isaac Hind led the Cardinals’ rushing attack. Tyler Hind ran seven times for 57 yards and a score. At tailback, Isaac Hind had nine carries for 55 yards. Alex Finch and Xander Hind also had touchdown runs for the Cardinals.
Bartoszek largely knew what to expect from the Randolph offense from his years at Franklinville/Elllicottville, but the Warriors still struggled to contain the option run by Tyler Hind.
“Even our good teams in years past, every team struggles with that,” Bartoszek said. “It’s bread and butter to them. It’s like a well-oiled machine and they’re good at it. When Tyler is doing his thing, it’s tough because the draw is to suck up in there on the dive because they’re getting five and six yards on the dive. That makes it difficult for our D-ends, they want to hit that dive and then he pulls it and then you have some breakdowns in the defense. I think defensively, we won’t see a ton of that precise an option offense, but it’s difficult and they’re good at it.”
Salamanca quarterback Lucas McKenna threw for 150 yards on 9-for-17 passing and led the Warriors with 44 rushing yards. He led scoring drives on Salamanca’s first two possessions, first hitting his brother Jarrett McKenna for a 34-yard touchdown pass on fourth down on the opening drive of the game. Later, Lucas McKenna took a fourth-down carry 33 yards to score a touchdown, cutting Randolph’s lead to 16-13.
Jarrett McKenna led Salamanca receivers with six catches for 78 yards.
“We were clicking and executing the things that we’ve been doing all summer and that’s a great sign,” Bartoszek said of his offense. “Randolph knows this offense pretty well themselves. They know how to adjust and do things, so once we slowed down with our run game, it took a little bit of the pressure off their secondary. We weren’t able to get behind them like we had an opportunity up the sideline here (a dropped wheel route). Once they were able to slow us down in the run game, it starts to slow down the passing game and the result is a slow halt to the offense.”
Salamanca had not played Randolph since 1995, when legends George Whitcher and Pat Slater were the two coaches. Brown said he’d only coached a game at Veterans Park once in more than 30 years with the Cardinals. But he knows Salamanca will quickly improve under Bartoszek, and the first half showed it.
“Bart coming over here is going to make them better,” Brown said. “You know that, hands down, he knows what he's doing, he's a good coach. This is his first game. He got here in what, June? You wait and see this team in Week 7. And honestly, without those two plays, this game is tight. The first half was tight.”
Randolph 8 14 18 0 — 40
Salamanca 8 14 18 0 — 13
Salamanca — Jarrett McKenna 34 pass from Lucas McKenna (8 plays, 75 yards); Aly Hill kick, 7-0
Randolph — Alex Finch 2 run (12 plays, 57 yards); Josh Brown pass from Tyler Hind, 7-8
Randolph — Isaac Hind 3 run (2 plays, 26 yards after Xander Hind fumble recovery); Luke Pagett run, 7-16
Salamanca — Lucas McKenna 33 run (7 plays, 59 yards); pass failed, 13-16
Randolph — Tyler Hind 1 run (10 plays, 58 yards); run failed, 13-22
Randolph — Isaac Hind 99 kick return; run failed, 13-28
Randolph — Tyler Hind 52 interception return; run failed, 13-34
Randolph — Xander Hind 2 run (1 play, 2 yards after botched punt snap); 13-40
First Downs 15 9
Rushes-Yards 50-246 32-92
Passing Yards 0 150
Comp-Att-Int 0-2-0 9-17-1
Total Offense 246 242
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 6-30 6-39
Punts-Avg 1-38 1-27
Total Plays 52 49