HUMBOLDT — Murphy’s Law was working overtime early against Humboldt High Friday.
Whatever could go wrong seemed to come to fruition, particularly in a tough first half, with a kaleidoscope of turnovers, missed plays on offense and missed tackles on defense.
Visiting West Franklin took full advantage, leading 27-0 at halftime and running the opening kickoff of the third quarter for a touchdown for good measure in a 39-20 victory.
The defeat drops Humboldt to 3-2 on the season. More importantly, the Cubs stand at 0-2 in district play, which determines a team’s position for the postseason.
Humboldt entered the game without six starters, either due to injury or because of grades, head coach Logan Wyrick said.
It proved to be too much for a squad already dominated with underclassmen.
The Falcons broke the game open on the legs and arm of sophomore quarterback Lance McCullough, who scored on touchdown runs of 7, 4 and 8 yards, then connecting on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Wise in the waning seconds of the half.
Meanwhile, Humboldt lost a fumble on its second play from scrimmage, then turned the ball over on interceptions in the second period.
“We preach two things: Take care of the ball on offense, and make tackles on defense,” Wyrick said.
Neither happened consistently enough to keep the Falcons from pulling away.
Still, there were glimmers of hope. Trey Sommer scored on a 46-yard touchdown jaunt almost immediately after West Franklin’s Caleb McKenzie pushed the Falcon lead to 33-0 on his third quarter kickoff return.
Sommer rushed for 63 yards on three plays, the last of which was a 46-yard touchdown jaunt to cut the gap to 33-6.
Humboldt’s defense stiffened, slowing West Franklin’s rushing attack over the next two possessions, which led to Sommer’s most impressive drive of the game.
He connected with Trenton Heisler on a 25-yard reception, found Maddox Johnson over the middle for a 24-yard pass, then fired a laser to Brennen Nuessen that took the Cubs down to the West Franklin 1. Sommer took the matters into his own hands (er, feet) rushing in the next play on a keeper.
And the Cub faithful were feeling downright giddy when Humboldt recovered the ensuing onside kick.
But things turned south on the Cubs’ next play. Sommer found Heisler for what the fans thought was a 47-yard touchdown. But the score was wiped away because a Humboldt lineman was whistled for venturing too far away from the line of scrimmage before the pass was thrown.
Then, Sommer threw a pair of incompletions, although both could have been flagged for pass interference penalties against West Franklin.
And a double pass play from Sam Hull to Trenton Heisler came up agonizingly close to a long completion. The ball was just beyond Heisler’s fingertips.
The near miss gave West Franklin possession at the Humboldt 48. Cameron Wise took the handoff on the next play and broke free for a 48-yard score
That was it until the game’s waning moments, during which Ethan Doepke scored for the Cubs on a 36-yard touchdown with 2:30 left.
Wyrick said one of Humboldt’s goals is to improve its blocking for sophomore quarterback Trey Sommer, who exited late in the contest after taking a hard tackle and limping off the field.
“He’s not Dan Marino back there, and we don’t want him to be,” Wyrick said. “He’s a fullback lining up at quarterback.
“But he did put a couple (passes) out there that I thought we should have made plays,” Wyrick continued. “A couple things happen, a couple things go our way, maybe it’s a one-possession game.
“And we’ve got a lot of guys playing out of position, too,” Wyrick said.
Sommer led the Cubs with 136 yards on 22 carries, while completing 10 of 28 passes for 113 yards. Doepke rushed for 20 yards. Hull had 20 yards on the ground. Heisler pulled in six receptions for 37 yards. Johnson had 39 yards on three carries. Nuessen covered 37 yards on his two receptions.
Those issues can be fixed if and when any of the missing starters return, he cautioned.
Some of the injured may be gone for extended periods, although some may be ready to return to action soon. “And hopefully, we get those grades taken care of,” he said.
Wise was West Franklin’s key protagonist, racking up 182 yards on the ground. McCullough added 58 yards on the ground and 35 through the air.
West Franklin 7-20-12-0—39
WF — McCullough 7 yd run (McKenzie kick)
WF — McCullough 4 yd run (McKenzie run)
WF — McCullough 8 yd run (run failed)
WF — Wise 29 yd pass from McCullough (run failed)
WF — McKenzie 78 yd kickoff return (run failed)
Humboldt — Sommer 46 yd run (run failed)
Humboldt — Sommer 2 yd run (run failed)
WF — Wise 48 yd run (kick failed)
Humboldt — Doepke 36 yd run (Hull run)
Rushing: Humboldt — Ethan Doepke, 10-40, Sam Hull 3-20, Trey Sommer 22-136, Maddox Johnson 1-2. West Franklin — Cameron Wise 14-182, Lance McCullough 15-89, Caleb McKenzie 6-58, Trey Rogers 2-4, Micas Bolley 1-(-2), Bryce Hatfield 2-1.
Passing: Humboldt — Sam Hull 1-4-0, Trey Sommer 10-28-113. West Franklin — Lance McCullough 2-6-35.
Receiving: Humboldt – Brennen Nuessen 2-37, Maddox Johnson 3-39, Trenton Heisler 6-37. West Franklin — Dustin Burns 1-6, Cameron Wise 1-22.