By Will Willems
Last week after Western Boone topped Frankfort, Stars head coach Justin Pelley talked about how much of a weapon special teams has become for his team.
He was proved right again on Friday night against North Montgomery. Star punter Nathan Bowman pinned the Chargers back on the 1-yard and it led to the go-ahead safety in a Stars’ 22-14 victory.
Kicker Solo Huckstep added two field goals in the second half to add more of a cushion.
“Those kids work really hard,” Pelley said. “Nathan Bowman was our punter last year and he did a heck of a job filling in tonight. We trust him back there and he can place it pretty well back there. That punt was big, it let us get the safety and then we could get the two field goals to go up eight points which is a big deal.”
The sequence came at a key time for Western Boone.
North Montgomery had tied the game with 8:28 left in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Collin Knecht and had forced a Western Boone punt from the Charger 39 yard line.
Bowman pinned the Chargers on the 1, and after a running play to the 4-yard line, a pitch back to Bryce Claycomb was wild and landed in the endzone. Claycomb fell on it for a safety.
North Montgomery only managed 30 yards of offense the rest of the game.
“One of the things we talk to the kids about is limiting the number of big plays we allow the other team to have,” North Montgomery head coach Josh Thompson said. “We allowed them to have some big plays at the worst possible times tonight. We had some letdowns that put us in some tough situations. We will continue to work on that with the kids. I was pleased with the effort tonight, I thought they played their hearts out, we just have to work on the mental aspect a little more.”
Huckstep kicked a 32-yard field goal after the ensuing free kick and added another field goal with 2:29 left to make it 22-14. The Chargers drove down to the Western Boone 33 with 36.4 left and faced third-and-1, but a holding penalty pushed them back to the 45.
They almost got the touchdown they needed on the next play, but Isaac Fruits dropped a ball in the endzone. A fourth-down heave fell incomplete.
Western Boone took a 7-0 lead with 1:21 left in the first quarter on a 32-yard run by Ryan Solomon.
North Montgomery responded two plays later with a 73-yard touchdown pass from Knecht to Dalton Surface. The Chargers managed 200 yards of offense in the game, but 125 of it came on two plays.
“Our secondary stepped up,” Pelley said. “They made a play on the first touchdown to (Surface) who is a heck of a player. We had who I consider one of the best corners in the conference in Ryan Solomon on him and he was in position, but their kid made a play. But I am really proud of our guys, our coaches and our scout team for the work they did throughout the week.”
Western Boone responded on its next drive, going 67 yards on 13 plays, scoring on a 16-yard pass from Jack Gilliam to Aaron Cook. Gilliam was 7 of 14 for 110 yards in the game, with Cook catching five of the passes for 85 yards.
“Jack is throwing the ball really well right now and that has changed from the first couple of weeks,” Pelley said. “I think his confidence has grown and the guys on the outside are making plays. Aaron Cook made a heck of a catch in the back of the end zone and Jack was able to extend a couple of plays back there to get us first down. The only negative is that we have to stop settling for field goals and score touchdowns in the red zone.”
Solomon rushed 14 times for 77 yards for Western Boone. Zach Belcher had 14 carries for 74 yards.
Western Boone has won two straight and will look for three in a row next week when they host Danville on senior night.
“We have a lot of guys doing a lot of things well right now,” Pelley said. “We have a couple guys out that we hope to get back next week and that will be a big deal for us and make a difference for us. We have to be able to run the ball and throw the ball to keep them off-balance. That is the goal.”