Behind a dominant game from its defense and some big plays on offense, especially in the second half, Tuscola football topped Enka 35-14 Friday for its first win of the season.
The defense limited Enka to 195 total yards from the game and forced four turnovers, including a fumble return touchdown on the second play of the game. The offense was much improved from its first two games, racking up 267 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries, led by junior Garrett Fox’s 17 carries for 148 yards and a score. Much of the Mountaineers’ damage in the run game came in the second half (19 carries for 178 yards, 9.3 yard per carry).
Tuscola made a switch at quarterback for this one, going from sophomore Coleman Bryson, the team’s starting signal caller for the first two games, to junior Nick Rich. Rich completed 6 of 11 passes for 119 yards and one interception, running the offense efficiently.
Bryson made a massive impact on both offense and defense. He recovered an Enka fumble and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game, and took a jet sweep 58 yards to the house on the first play of the second half.
The Jets evened the score with a stellar special teams play with about five minutes left in the first quarter; Enka punt returner Jackson Smith evaded multiple tackles with spin moves and jukes en route to about a 60-yard return to the house.
The Mountaineers’ defense came up with another big play late in the first quarter, as senior defensive back Ephraim Tice picked off Jets quarterback Logan Sanders deep in Enka territory to set Tuscola up at the Jets’ 22-yard line.
The Mountaineers then went for it on fourth and goal from the 2, and senior Nick Helsel powered his way in for the score, giving Tuscola a 14-7 lead at the half.
Bryson found pay dirt on the Mountaineers’ first offensive play of the second half, taking a jet sweep 58 yards to the house for a 21-7 Tuscola lead.
The defense came up with its third turnover on Enka’s first play of the second half; Tice grabbed his second pick of the game, again giving the offense a short field as he returned his interception to the Enka 26.
The game got chippy shortly after Tice’s pick, as punches were thrown in a dustup after a play.
The Mountaineers extended their lead to three scores with 10:25 to play in the game, as Fox took a pitch 62 yards to the house to put the Mountaineers up 28-7.
Bryson picked up his second turnover of the game eight minutes and change left in the third quarter, picking off Sanders in Tuscola territory to keep the Jets from trimming their deficit.
Rich was picked off in Enka territory with about six minutes left, setting the Jets up at the Tuscola 27 after a late hit out of bounds against the Mountaineers. That short field allowed Enka’s offense to cut Tuscola’s lead to 28-14.
Coleman Cothern salted things away for the Mountaineers with a rushing score to make it 35-14 with 2:46 to play.
Tuscola will hit the road to face North Henderson next Friday.