The Fort Calhoun football machine went into Friday's Washington County battle with a full tank.
The Pioneers weren't shy about burning through that fuel, either.
“I don't know what it was, but from the time people got here, they were just in a different mood,” quarterback Ty Hallberg said. “I liked it a lot.”
FCHS started fast on its home field, scoring three first-quarter touchdowns against Arlington and building a 29-0 halftime lead. A dominant, 42-14 victory was its fifth of the season as coach Adolph Shepardson's team improved to 5-2.
“I felt like we were more veteran, a more physical team than Arlington,” he said. “They're very well coached and their kids played hard, but I just felt going in that, if we played well, we would win pretty handily and we did.”
The Eagles, meanwhile, fell to 4-3 with losses to 7-0 Ashland-Greenwood, 6-1 Pierce and, now, the Pioneers.
“It's a big game, you know, and they had a couple of big plays that kind of took it to us,” AHS coach Colter Mattson said. “And it just kind of went from there.”
Fort Calhoun received the opening kickoff and went 65 yards in just 1:09. Austin Welchert caught a 22-yard swing pass, Zane Schwarz hauled in a long trick-play pass down to the 8-yard-line and Clint Dierks barreled into the end zone from there.
“We've been preaching all week that we were going to come out and start with a bang because we hadn't really done that yet,” said senior FCHS lineman Jayce Douchey. “We wanted to score on the opening drive and we did. We were successful.”
The Pioneers' Tristan Fuhrman intercepted an Arlington pass on the subsequent drive and his team's offense was back in business. The 67-yard Welchert touchdown run that followed came before 4 minutes of Friday's rivalry game had elapsed.
“They came out in some stuff that they didn't really do on film,” Mattson said. “There were some adjustments during the first and second quarter that we had to take care of. They had a pretty good scheme going into that.”
Shepardson said it all came down to execution for his Fort Calhoun squad.
“We didn't turn the ball over and we executed,” he said. “When we do that, we're going to be very tough to beat.”
A smooth fake-punt pass from Grayson Bouwman to Dierks set up the Pioneers' third touchdown of the first quarter, a 6-yard Fuhrman run. Dierks' two-point conversion pushed FCHS' lead to 22-0.
“We ran the ball. We passed it,” Hallberg said. “We did pretty much anything.”
Welchert and Fuhrman scored two more rushing touchdowns before Arlington posted its first points of the ballgame during the early stages of the fourth quarter. Logan Kaup converted a 15-yard fourth down scoring pass to Nick Smith, pulling the Eagles within 35-8.
Calhoun wasn't done, though. Dierks answered AHS' fourth-down conversion with his own, needing 3 yards, but racing 31 by the Eagles' defense into the end zone. Mason Bliss' extra-point kick gave the Pioneers their final tally — 42 points.
Arlington backups Kaden Foust and Kaden Pittman combined for an 8-yard touchdown pass late, but FCHS' defense had already done its job by that point. When asked which the Pioneers executed best against the Eagles, offense or defense, Douchey picked quickly.
“The defense was killer,” he said.
The win pushed Calhoun's district record to 2-1, while Arlington dropped to the same mark. Boys Town — which beat Fort Calhoun and plays Arlington next — is 3-0.
“We've just got to be better on our end,” Mattson said when asked what's next. He cited penalties as particularly harmful against the Pioneers. Arlington once snapped the ball on a third-and-48 play during the first half because of them.
Fort Calhoun, meanwhile, wants to get to 7-2 by the end of the regular season. It plays 0-7 Omaha Concordia next before a regular-season finale against Logan View (4-3 overall) on Oct. 22.
“We assured a winning season (tonight) and we want to get to seven wins, and hopefully eight, nine, 10, 11,” Shepardson said. “We just want to win, win, win here.”
The Pioneers will refill their tank and burn some more fuel 7 p.m. Friday against the Mustangs first.