Tuscola football put up a good effort, but was ultimately overmatched against a powerhouse opponent Friday night, ultimately falling 51-0 to A.C. Reynolds at CE Weatherby Stadium.
The Mountaineers’ banged up secondary had no answer for the Rockets’ high-flying passing attack, and the offense struggled to move the ball.
Tuscola head coach J.T. Postell, however; was proud of the effort his team showed against a top-tier opponent.
“We knew it was going to be a tough challenge against Reynolds,” Postell said. “It is every year, pretty much for just about every team in our conference. Coach Laws and his staff do a great job with their talent. So we knew it was a really good football team, we knew we’d have our work cut out for us and we knew our back would be against the wall a little bit just dealing with all that talent and all the speed that they have.
“I’m proud of my kids, I thought we hung in there and we fought with the best we had. We have a lot of injuries right now, the injury bug has really bitten us lately, especially in our secondary. We had no backups in our secondary tonight. I thought that hurt us a little bit at times.”
Tuscola’s defense came out ready to play, forcing a three and out for the Rockets’ high-powered offense on the game’s first possession, aided by a penalty and sack.
“I thought our defensive line and our linebackers played really well,” Postell said. “I thought we did a really good job overall shutting down the run. … I’m really proud of our D-Line, Juan Sanchez, Jonathan Smart, Lucas Teague and Greyson Jones and our linebackers, Nick Helsel, John Francis, Drew Gilland and Conner Medina. I thought they did an outstanding job.”
That three and out gave Tuscola good field position to start its first drive, but junior quarterback Nick Rich threw a third-down pick to give A.C. Reynolds the ball back at its own 25.
Reynolds wasted little time taking a two-score lead in the first quarter, as Eli Carr hit receiver Jhari Patterson for 56 and 32-yard touchdowns to make it 14-0.
The Mountaineers’ ensuing drive ended in disaster; Rockets defensive back Seth Eberhardt picked off Rich around Tuscola’s 20-yard line and took it back for a pick-six to make it a four-score game.
Patterson added a third touchdown with 4:24 left in the half to put Reynolds up 35-0, and the Rockets tacked on a 28-yard field goal for a 38-0 lead at halftime.
“[Patterson]’s really good,” Postell said. “He’s a division one athlete, who I think has several offers now from D-1 schools, including ACC schools. He did a really good job for them tonight. Give their quarterback a lot of credit. I thought their quarterback threw the ball really well. We just had a hard time running with him and staying with him.”
The Rockets extended their lead to 45-0 early in the second half, sending the game to a running clock. Reynolds then added another pick-six, making it 51-0 as Tuscola blocked the extra point.
Rich suffered an apparent elbow injury late in the fourth quarter after landing awkwardly at the end of a run.
Postell said after the game Rich had full movement in the elbow and was able to extend it, but would be further evaluated by the training staff. As of Sunday morning, Postell said Rich was doubtful to play in Tuscola’s next game.
The Mountaineers will be back in action at Asheville next week.
“I thought our guys ran hard, played hard, especially in the second half,” Postell said. “We’ll look to go to Asheville next week and I don’t think we’ve won on their field since the ‘90s. So that’s something that we’re going to talk about this week and that we’re going to try to do.”