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Lucas senior Riley Mounts (11) reaches for a pass during Friday's season opener at Danville. The Cubs defeated the Blue Devils, 32-12.

DANVILLE – The Lucas Cubs rode behind a brick wall of a defense all the way to the regional finals in 2018.

On Friday, they picked up right where they left off.

Lucas executed a near-perfect defense in the first half, allowing three first downs and forcing two turnovers on its way to a 32-12 victory over nearby rival Danville.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Lucas coach Scott Spitler said. “Coming in here, to Tough Street, to a traditional powerhouse. It’s having that expectation of how we expect to play.”

Riley Mounts set the pace with an interception on the third play of the game. The ensuing drive ended with a 22-yard touchdown run by Ethan Sauder.

The Cubs’ offense pounded Danville with runs by Sauder and Tommy Zirzow. The duo combined for 175 yards on the ground, with Zirzow adding a three-yard score late in the fourth quarter.

In his first start as Lucas’ first-string quarterback, senior Logan Niswander completed 5 of 12 passes for 97 yards and a pair of scores. His first touchdown came midway through the second, when he found Mounts on a deep route in the endzone to give Lucas a 12-0 lead.

“Since his sophomore year, he (Niswander) has grown so much,” Spitler said. “He stepped up to that role and he’s our leader. He’s our Dude on Offense. He’s very unselfish and he wants his team to succeed, and that’s why they play hard for him.”

Danville responded with big plays, including a kick return by Alex Holt and a long pass completion by Charlie Cook. However, both were wiped out by penalties.

“We have a lot of first-year starters,” Danville coach Ed Honabarger said. “It was kind of a deer in the headlights thing in the first half. But, in the second half, they came back.”

The Devils finally rallied midway through the third period. A series of runs and throws by Cook was capped by a 2-yard touchdown by Holt to make it 12-6.

Momentum disappeared immediately, however, when Carson Hauger returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards for a Lucas score.

Another long drive by Danville (0-1) ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Cook to Langdon Johnson. The play narrowed the gap to six once again, 18-12.

Two long plays by Lucas – a 37-yard run by Mounts and a 26-yard TD pass from Niswander to Hauger – put the game back in the visiting team’s hands.

Last season, Lucas (1-0) began the season 3-2 before driving through the second half of its schedule. The Cubs then proceeded to dominate Hannibal River and Waterford in the playoffs. In that stretch, Lucas allowed fewer than 10 points per game.

That’s the same defense Danville faced Friday. It’s the same one Centerburg will have to contend with next week.

“We watched them (the Trojans) in scrimmages, and they look really, really good,” Spitler said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

The Blue Devils travel to Loudonville next Friday.

AROUND THE KMAC:

  • Bloom-Carroll beat Highland, 31-0
  • Northmor beat Elgin, 43-0
  • East Knox beat Northridge, 41-0
  • Centerburg beat Utica, 52-6
  • Plymouth beat Cardington, 48-18
  • Clear Fork beat Fredericktown, 56-0
  • Colonel Crawford beat Mount Gilead, 31-0

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