ELDRIDGE — The Central DeWitt football team showed it could move the ball during Friday’s 3A District 5 opener with fifth-ranked North Scott.
The Sabers, though, could not hold on to it.
Playing on the road, Central had four straight possessions in the first half end in turnovers and finished with five turnovers overall.
The Lancers took advantage, returning two of the turnovers for touchdowns and scoring right after two others to build the bulk of their lead in a 42-21 victory.
It was a nightmare first quarter for the Sabers.
Central forced a North Scott fourth down on the opening drive, only to have the Lancers convert and, two plays later, score the contest’s first touchdown.
After a Sabers punt, the Lancers converted a pair of third downs — the latter being a 63-yard touchdown — to push their lead to 13-0.
Central’s next drive ended with an interception and the Lancers needed just two plays to find the end zone again to push the lead to 20.
The Sabers picked up an early first down on their next drive and were near midfield when the Lancers got their hands on another interception, this time running it back to the end zone to make it 27-0 with less than a minute to go in the opening quarter.
Central moved the ball again on its next drive, but this possession ended with a fumble, giving the ball back to the Lancers again.
North Scott, though, committed penalties on back-to-back plays, stymieing its drive and a long fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
The Sabers countered with their best drive of the half. Seniors Zach Hinkle and Caleb Pace both picked first downs on the ground, while Henry Bloom found Logan Paulsen for a 10-yard pass and another first down.
The Sabers moved the ball all the way to the North Scott 16, but had a Pace touchdown reception wiped out by penalty and Central’s subsequent field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown. The two-point try was good as well and North Scott led 35-0 at the half.
The Sabers got the ball first in the second half, but saw their possession end with another turnover.
Central, though, got the ball right back as senior Tucker Kinney recovered a Lancers fumble on the very first play of North Scott’s drive.
This time, it was the Sabers who took advantage as Paulsen won a battle with a North Scott defender for a pass and sprinted along the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown.
Landon Peterson added the extra point and the Sabers were on the board.
Central rode the momentum. The defense forced a punt in just three plays, while the offense got back in business again on a 32-yard run by Pace.
The drive, though, ultimately stalled and the Lancers got the ball back.
The Sabers forced a pair of fourth downs, but the Lancers converted both, picking up the latter with a five-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal.
Central did not back down. After the Sabers were forced to punt, Kinney jumped in front of a Lancers pass and returned it all the way to the three-yard line.
Two plays later, Bloom followed the left side of his line over the goal line for a two-yard touchdown.
The Sabers forced a turnover on the Lancers next drive as well.
And it took just a single play for Central to strike again as Bloom found Paulsen for a 44-yard touchdown to create the final margin.
The Sabers threw for 129 yards with Paulsen accounting for all but 14 of them. The senior grabbed four passes with two of them going for touchdowns.
Central was balanced in the running game with Hinkle leading the way with 34 yards, Pace adding 29, Sean Kinney 25, and Bloom 10 to go with a rushing touchdown.
Senior Ethan Pierce led the Central defense with 11 tackles, including eight solo stops and a tackle for loss.
Fellow senior Matthew Roling had nine tackles with eight solo, while Connor Scheer had seven stops.
T. Kinney had both an interception and a fumble recovery, while Lane Krukow also recovered a fumble.
Up next ...
After the short road trip, the Sabers head back home Friday for a visit from Davenport Assumption.
The Knights are 3-2 and coming off a big 55-7 victory over Clinton in their district opener.
Assumption rushed for over 300 yards in that victory and currently rank second in the district in rushing.
The Knights defense, meanwhile, has yet to allow more than two touchdowns in a game this season.
The Sabers will honor the 1987 Central DeWitt football team at halftime of the game.
The 1987 Sabers went 7-2 overall to win the Big Bend Conference, while becoming just the second team in program history to qualify for the 3A state playoffs.
North Scott 42, Central DeWitt 21
Central DeWitt 0 0 7 14 21
North Scott 27 8 0 7 42
Team Stats Central North Scott
First Downs 11 16
Rushing Att. 28 33
Rushing Yards 103 186
Passing 8-18 10-21
Completion % 44% 48%
Passing Yards 129 130
Total Offense 232 316
Turnovers 5 3
Penalties 4-20 9-85
Passing – Henry Bloom, 8-18, 129 yards, two touchdowns.
Rushing – Bloom, 6-10, one touchdown; Zach Hinkle, 5-34; Sean Kinney, 7-25; Kaiden Muhl, 2-5; Caleb Pace, 7-29; TEAM, 1-0.
Receiving – Hinkle, 1-3; Tucker Kinney, 2-7; Logan Paulsen, 5-119, two touchdowns.
Tackles – Tyson Belk, one; Jacob Bromwell, two (one solo); Jeff Fuller, one solo; Andrew Grau, one; T. Kinney, three (two solo), one interception, one fumble recovery; Lane Krukow, four solo, one fumble recovery; John McConohy, three; Pace, two solo; Ethan Pierce, 11 (eight solo); Matthew Roling, nine (eight solo); Connor Scheer, seven (three solo); Kaden Schnede, two.