SUNBURY — The Big Walnut Golden Eagles ushered in a new season — and a new stadium — emphatically on Friday, jumping on Bishop Hartley early and often en route to a 35-7 blitzing in the first-ever game at the new school.
Following the game, Big Walnut head coach Rob Page told his team, “I love it when a plan comes together,” which drew an eruption of cheers from his players. If the plan he was referencing included dominating the line of scrimmage, the Golden Eagles executed it to near perfection.
A stifling effort by the Big Walnut defense, including three forced turnovers in the first half, gave way to an overwhelming rushing attack led by junior running back Nate Severs that Hartley simply couldn’t defend as the Golden Eagles moved to 1-0 on the season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how we did it together with toughness and discipline,” Page said following the win. “I loved our effort and I love this team. There’s no group of guys I’d rather go into a game with than these dudes.”
All momentum was seized by Big Walnut shortly after the opening kickoff. Hartley needed just four plays to move the ball to the Big Walnut 28-yard line, but a pass from quarterback Peyton Underwood deflected off a receiver’s hands and was intercepted by Nicky Pentello to thwart the scoring opportunity.
Taking over at their own 27-yard line, Big Walnut marched seven plays in just over two minutes to take the early lead. Jake Nier connected with Nate Snead for a 22-yard scoring strike, and Cam Gladden’s extra point had the Golden Eagles out in front, 7-0, with 7:20 remaining in the first quarter.
Underwood was intercepted again on the ensuing drive, this time by Big Walnut’s Teddy Dancer, setting the Golden Eagles up for another prime scoring opportunity deep in Hartley territory.
Six plays later, Severs scampered into the end zone from 22 yards out for the first of four rushing touchdowns to build the Big Walnut lead to 14-0 with 3:28 to play in the first quarter.
Hartley appeared poised to cut into the deficit on their third possession, driving to the Big Walnut 34-yard line before the drive ultimately stalled after a failed fourth-down conversion. Big Walnut was unable to muster anything following the turnover on downs, but turnovers continued to haunt Hartley in the first half.
Following Gladden’s punt, Ethan Clawson pounced on a Hartley fumble at the Hawks’ 35-yard line to set up the Big Walnut offense for an early knockout blow just a minute into the second quarter.
Big Walnut appeared to have squandered the opportunity when Gladden’s 40-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty on Hartley gave Big Walnut a new set of downs.
Two plays later, Severs busted into the end zone from seven yards out to increase the Big Walnut lead to 21-0 with 6:19 remaining in the first half, a lead they took into halftime.
After receiving the opening kickoff of the second half, Big Walnut delivered the knockout blow just over two minutes into the third quarter. Severs tallied his third touchdown of the evening from a yard out to put Big Walnut ahead 28-0, effectively ending the game.
Hartley’s last gasp to make the game competitive was again thwarted on the ensuing drive. After driving to the Big Walnut 10-yard line, Clawson stuffed Hartley running back DeAunte Hubbard on fourth and one to end the drive.
Severs added his fourth score of the night on the next drive to increase the Big Walnut lead to 35-0, forcing a running clock per Ohio High School Atheltic Association rules for most of the remaining 13 minutes of action.
Hubbard ended Big Walnut’s shutout bid in the waning moments of the fourth quarter to cut the Golden Eagles’ lead to 35-7, but the celebrating was already underway along the home sidelines.