Hornet defense shines in 28-0 rout of Rockets

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CCM/Dan Ries Rocket Luke Smith (6) tackles Hornet Dylan Phillips (1) during a cross-county matchup Friday at Malvern.

By Dan Ries
Sports Reporter
The Malvern Hornets’ defense stole the show Friday night as they hosted the Conotton Valley Rockets. The defense held the Rockets to 117 total yards, only 22 rushing yards and forced seven turnovers en route to a 28-0 win.
The game didn’t start off well for the Rockets as their opening kickoff went out of bounds at the Hornets 49-yard line. The hosts drove 51 yards in 6:15 before junior Drake Hutchison scrambled to his right for a five-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead (kick failed).
Following a 24-yard kickoff return to the 36-yard line, the Rockets quickly picked up a first down on their own 46-yard line. On the next play, in shotgun formation, the snap sailed over the head of Rocket quarterback Zack Putnam and was recovered by a swarm of Hornets at the 27. Two plays later, senior quarterback Jared Witherow connected with senior wide receiver Dylan Phillips for a 16-yard touchdown. The kick was good, giving Malvern a 13-0 lead with 2:40 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter was plagued by yellow flags and turnovers. A fumble and interception turnovers by the Rockets and three turnovers on downs by the Hornets left the score 13-0 at half.
The Rockets received the second half kickoff and stated a drive on the 38-yard line. Five plays and an offside penalty by the Hornets moved the ball to the Hornets 32. The drive was halted when senior Phillips intercepted a pass, his first of his two on the night. He returned the ball to the 33-yard line. The Hornets began a 12 play, 67-yard drive that was capped off by a four-yard touchdown by senior wide receiver Charles Motz. The kick would make the score 20-0 at the 2:48 mark in the third.
Conotton began its next drive on the 35-yard line and, after 3 incompletions, lined up to go for it on fourth down. A 48-yard punt by Putman put the ball on the Hornets 18-yard line. Two plays later the Rockets recovered a Hornet fumble on the 31-yard line. The visitors marched the ball to the 13-yard line. The drive halted when Putnam’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Phillips who returned it to the 20.
The hosts added eight points in the fourth quarter, a safety at the 6:40 mark on a bad snap over the head of the quarterback, the third of the game, and an 11-yard touchdown pass by Witherow to sophomore wide receiver Josh Untch with 2:40 left in the game.
Malvern Coach Chiurco had mixed feelings about the game.

“There were two good things tonight: we won the game and everybody got to play. We lacked effort, energy and enthusiasm. We forced seven turnovers and really had nothing to show for it (only 14 points). It seemed like once we got into a rhythm and got inside their 20, the flags were flying from every direction. We have to play much, much better next week against Harrison Central or we could be in for a very long night.”
Malvern (2-0) lead the way in total yards, 347-117. Hutchison led the Hornets on the ground with 15 carries for 91 yards, and one touchdown. Motz contributed 48 yards on five carries and one touchdown. Witherow completed seven of 15 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Phillips led the receivers with five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Untch caught two balls for 29 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively Malvern was led by Owen Ball with eight tackles, Witherow had an interception to go along with Phillips two interceptions.
Putnam completed 11 of 24 passes for 93 yards and threw three interceptions. Luke Smith led the Rockets in rushing with three carries for 12 yards. Kamden Wright had six catches for 43 yards. Brooks Bower led the defense with eight tackles and two assists.
Malvern held a 20-9 edge in first downs. Malvern committed one turnover, a fumble, while Conotton Valley had seven, three interceptions and four fumbles.
Malvern heads to Cadiz Friday to face Harrison Central and Conotton Valley will be home to Newcomerstown. Kickoff for both games is at 7 p.m.

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