INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – The Highlanders beat their opponent Friday night as if they had a hot date following.
In a game that lasted less than 2 hours from start to finish – thanks in large part to a running clock the entire second half – Incline built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and exploded for 28 points in the second on its way to a 42-0 win over visiting Silver Stage.
“We needed to get back to our winning ways,” said first-year Incline head coach Scott Conn, whose Highlanders (4-1) suffered their first loss of the season at Yerington (6-0) last week. “I thought we came out fired up the second the whistle was blown. We took initiative and put pressure on Silver Stage from the get-go, on both sides of the ball.”
Led by senior playmakers Brendon Steinmeyer and Sean Herrera, the Highlanders scored touchdowns on five of their six possessions of the first half, with Steinmeyer and Herrera notching two apiece.
Incline was just as sharp defensively, pinning Silver Stage (1-2) deep in its own territory all night. The Nighthawks never advanced the ball past the Incline 47-yard line, while the Highlanders held them to 7 yards of total offense in the game – 4 yards rushing and 3 passing.
“This Silver Stage team is actually a larger team up front than Yerington, and I thought our linemen did an outstanding job against their size,” Conn said.
The Highlanders wasted little time setting the tone. On the third play of the game, sophomore Jack Clouthier stepped in front of an ill-advised pass by the Nighthawks and returned it 35 yards to the house. Steinmeyer kicked through one of his four PATs of the game for a 7-0 lead less than a minute and a half in.
After recovering a Silver Stage fumble and stalling on the ensuing drive – forcing the only Incline punt of the half – the hosts found the end zone on five consecutive possessions.
On the first play of their next drive, junior quarterback and linebacker Christian Biscotti rolled to his right and delivered a perfectly placed ball on the run to Steinmeyer, who hauled it in at about the 8-yard line and strode into the end zone uncontested.
Herrera then capped an eight-play, 58-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run early in the second quarter, which extended the lead to 20-0 after a failed PAT.
About a minute later, after Terry Mitchell fumbled the kickoff return back to Incline, Herrera took the handoff at midfield and burst into the secondary en route to a 50-yard touchdown sprint.
“I just went through the line, cut back and the line finished it up for me with great blocks,” Herrera said of the play.
Biscotti hooked up with his big sophomore tight end, Ben Snyder, for the 2-point conversion, and Incline led 28-0 with more than 10 minutes still remaining before half.
Behind a couple of positive runs by Joey Kellogg, who led the Nighthawks with 24 rushing yards, Silver Stage then moved the ball to the Incline 47-yard line before turning it over on downs.
Six plays later, Clouthier, in at QB, hit Snyder in the end zone with a soft touch for a 6-yard touchdown. Steinmeyer's extra point pushed the score to 34-0.
Incline wasn't quite done. After forcing a three-and-out, the Highlanders marched 48 yards in three plays, using runs of 23 and 18 yards by Herrera and Steinmeyer before Steinmeyer ran around the right side of the line and into the end zone untouched from 7 yards out. With the extra point, Incline extended its lead to the final margin with 25 seconds left in the half.
“We played amazing,” said Herrera, who led all rushers with 114 yards on seven carries. “The offensive line really stepped up. The whole team did great.”
With the running clock, the second half breezed by as Conn took advantage of the opportunity to get his reserves some valuable playing time.
“It's always nice when you get a chance to get all the guys in a game,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to put up enough points in the first half to allow all the guys to show us what they got. And I was extremely pleased with how they did.”
Conn complimented the play of Jared Skowronski and Kenny Savelieff, who filled in admirably in the absence of Ben Reber and Sam Reber on the offensive line, as well as center Joe Sunseri, who played with the flu.
“I'm extremely proud of our offensive line,” Conn said, crediting the unit for the big offensive day.
And of course, the coach was thrilled with his team's defensive gem, led by the hard-hitting, ball-stripping play of Biscotti and Steinmeyer, among others. “They were itching for a shutout,” he said.