By: Dana Becker, The Messenger Sports Reporter
It was difficult for Iowa Central head football coach Jesse Montalto to look at the scoreboard inside Dodger Stadium after Saturday's game.
Highland used a punt return for a touchdown and two turnovers to claim a 21-18 victory, dealing the Tritons their first home loss of the season.
"We gave them 21 points," Montalto said. "The punt return, an interception where we had a miscommunication that could have been six our way, the fumble and the penalty on a missed field goal attempt. Otherwise, it's an 18-0 game and we are in control.
"We beat ourselves. That's what it comes down to."
Blake Dever was 24-for-40 passing for 225 yards and two touchdowns, including nine completions to Emmanuel Logan-Greene for 147 yards. Dever and Greene connected on a 59-yard pass minutes into the first, but the Scotties (4-1 overall) would score the next 21 points.
Brian George returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown, Bernard Porter caught a 30-yard TD pass from Avery McCall and Highland forced a turnover on downs to end the game late in the fourth.
"We have to do the basic stuff well to win games," Montalto said. "Right now, we are not good enough at that."
The Scotties took advantage of a flag on a missed field goal attempt to keep a drive alive in the second, as Naricuss Driver plowed in on fourth-and-1. The series started after a Donnell Lowery fumble recovery.
Down 21-7, Iowa Central (2-3) answered with a 13-play drive as Dever hit Joyce from 10 yards out. The drive was kept alive by a fourth-down completion from Dever to Andrew Parchment for 10 yards on fourth-and-9.
"It's tough when you are forced to battle through the flags, the mistakes and the penalties," Montalto said. "We're just not a good enough team to overcome all of that right now."
Luke Noonan booted through a 45-yard field goal with just over nine minutes to go in the third, and after Tyreke Williams pinned Highland on its own 1, the Triton defense recorded a safety to make it a three-point game.
Iowa Central was unable to score on five possessions, however, including a missed field goal and a turnover on downs from the Highland 42 with just under 13 seconds to go.
Terrion Williams and Michael Slater each had a sack for the Triton defense, which allowed just 48 net rushing yards on 35 carries and 134 yards total for the day. Deqwunn McCobb had nine tackles, Dylan Douglas eight and Spencer Cuvelier seven.
Highland's Reco Hannah had 3.5 sacks, two more quarterback hurries and a team-high 15 total tackles.
Next action for Iowa Central will be Saturday when they travel to second-ranked Garden City, who improved to 5-0 with a 57-17 victory at Fort Scott.
First Downs 20 9
Rushes-Yards 32-78 35-48
Passing 225 86
Comp-Att-Int 24-41-1 11-17-0
Total Offense 303 134
Punts-Avg. 6-35.8 33.6
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 7-55 8-77
Iowa Central 7 6 5 0– 18
Highland 14 7 0 0–21
Highland — Brian George (75-yard punt return), 8:00 left in first. Ryan Schemtob kick.
Highland — Bernard Porter (20-yard pass from Avery McCall), 5:05 left in first. Schemtob kick.
Highland — Naricuss Driver (1-yard run), 10:10 left in second. Schemtob kick.
Iowa Central — Eldridge Joyce (10-yard pass from Dever), :36 left in second. Kick failed.
Iowa Central — Noonan (45-yard field goal), 9:05 left in third.
Iowa Central — Safety, 5:20 left in third.
Rushing — Iowa Central: Draven Peeples 20-51, Rashad Witty 4-12, Justin Blake 5-12, Jatoviay Hill 2-2, TJ Tumbleson 1-1. Highland: Kevin Brown 13-36, Michael Thomas 6-15, Justin Ruiz 5-10, Naricuss Driver 3-1, Avery McCall 6-(minus-2), Team 2-(minus-12).
Receiving — Iowa Central: Emmanuel Logan-Greene 9-147, Andrew Parchment 5-32, Eldridge Joyce 3-18, Rashad Witty 4-15, Kevaughn Dingle 3-13. Highland: Bernard Porter 2-30, Antavious Cook 2-18, Greg Payton 2-18, Kevin Brown 1-9, Shaq Crowder 3-8, Antoine Thompson 1-3.