FARMINGTON — Offensively, defensively and everything in between, the Mt. Blue football team did whatever it wanted Friday night.

Kevon Johnson ran for 128 yards and three touchdowns, the Cougars defense was airtight and Mt. Blue defeated Gardiner at Caldwell Field, 48-0.

Zack Delano had three sacks for Mt. Blue, which improved to 4-2. Gardiner fell to 1-5.

“We did some good things defensively, played some pretty good team defense,” Cougars coach Scott Franzose said. “You can’t complain about a shutout on the board and putting up 48 points. It was a pretty good team performance, just across the board.”

The Tigers had no answer for the ground combination of Johnson, equally adept at dodging tacklers as shaking them off, or quarterback Hunter Meeks, who ran for 53 yards on seven carries. As a team, Mt. Blue gained 241 yards on 36 carries.

“They’re much improved. They’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on,” Gardiner coach Joe White said. “We knew they were going to bring a tough gameplan in. Johnson (was) running hard, like we knew he could.”

And yet, Mt. Blue’s defense may have been the better unit. The Cougars allowed 21 yards rushing on 17 carries — and a total of 1 yard on the first 13 attempts — and forced almost as many turnovers (two, both interceptions) as they allowed first downs (three).

“I feel like we all worked as a team, we all worked great. There wasn’t much we could have improved on, besides rushing to the ball,” Delano said. “We had a lot of improving to do, and we’ve definitely done that.”

Missed chances, however, seemed to be the developing theme from the start for the Cougars, who reached the Gardiner 25 on their first drive and fumbled, then took over at the Tigers 46 on their second but went backwards and punted.

By the third drive, however, the kinks had been worked out. Another three-and-out got the offense the ball back at the Gardiner 25, and a trio of Johnson carries, the last reaching the end zone from 16 yards out, put Mt. Blue ahead 7-0 with 5:16 to go in the first quarter.

A Meeks interception gave the Cougars another short field, this time at the 24, and Johnson made the big run again from 19 yards out to make it 14-0.

“I was just trying to put my team in the best position possible,” Johnson said. “All thanks go to the line. They were a big help this game, they opened up holes, they allowed me to do what I needed to do on the ground.”

Franzose gave his standout back more credit, as well as his quarterback.

“I think Hunter and Kevon did a great job on cutback lanes, seeing the field, and that’s where that speed kicked in,” he said. “It was definitely an advantage tonight.”

The Tigers tried to protect their fading chances by going for a 4th-and-1 at their own 44 near the end of the second quarter, but the Cougars stuffed Hunter Land for a loss of two yards. Mt. Blue cashed in again, this time with a 5-yard screen pass from Meeks to Kyle Fox to make it 21-0 with 10:37 left in the second quarter. A Meeks run from 19 yards out on the next drive built the lead to 28-0 with 2:26 left in the half.

The final score of the first half came after an Ian Barker interception. A night of short fields now provided Mt. Blue with its shortest with the ball at the 14, and Meeks hit Jack Kearing with a 4-yard screen pass four plays later for a 35-0 lead with 25 seconds left.

Mt. Blue added scores in the second half with a 1-yard run by Johnson and an 18-yard run by Tucker Nicholas. Field position was a key all night for the Cougars; Mt. Blue averaged the Gardiner 35 for its starting point while Gardiner averaged its own 23, unable all game to move the ball and tilt the battle.

“I think we won first down. That’s a key,” Franzose said. “We did a lot of coming out first down and putting them in 2nd-and-12, 2nd-and-16, so that’s a big thing.”

“I think it’s mostly based off of trusting each other,” Delano said. “The defensive line does what they do, and the defensive backs do what they have to do. We all trust each other and don’t hope for one person to make the play all day.”

Even after the win, Johnson was reluctant to say the team feels like it’s picking up steam.

“I don’t really focus on it,” he said. “We just keep playing game to game, and we do the best that we can.”


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