Shadle Park has a dangerous weapon in highly sought-after quarterback Brett Rypien, and he did throw five touchdown passes in a 40-17 romp at University Friday night.
But it was the running game, which pulled its weight, and a bold squib kickoff to start the second half that proved critical in what would become a Highlanders romp.
By halftime they nearly split rushing and passing yards to lead 20-10. The squib kick following intermission was touched by a Titan, recovered by Shadle, and a play later Rypien hit Tanner Pauly for a 35-yard touchdown, one of four they would combine for on this night.
“We were able to run the ball a little tonight,” Highlanders coach Alan Stanfield said. “A point of emphasis was to be able to run it. If they’re going to (have) that many people in coverage we have to make them adjust.”
Shadle adjusted well behind mighty-mite rushers Alvin Welch and Michael Morris, who rolled up 146 yards on 21 carries between them and kept the pressure off Rypien. He picked the Titans apart, hitting Pauly for three successive scores in the third quarter.
“It’s kind of running back by committee,” Stanfield said. “They’re all about 140 to 160 pounds, but they run closer to 200 pounds, especially Alvin. He runs with some attitude. I like that.”
Welch carried the ball 11 times for 83 yards. Morris, primarily a defender, had a 25-yard touchdown sprint early in the second quarter.
“We just decided to start running this game and we did good,” Welch said. “Last week we were too set on passing, passing, and they had three down linemen, and we should have run the ball. We felt if U-Hi was running the same defensive scheme we’d run the ball and that’s what happened.”
Shadle rushed for 187 yards. Rypien completed 23 of 30 passes for 273 yards. Pauley had 87 yards in receptions and Nick Kiourkas finished with 106, all but 9 in the first half.
In the first quarter, Morris had fumbled after the Highlanders marched 46 yards into U-Hi territory. Then, on four successive carries, Jeff Beaty gained 55 yards to set up a field goal for University and a 3-0 lead.
But Shadle came back on Welch’s legs, and Rypien hit Pauly for a short touchdown taking a lead it never relinquished. Morris then scored on his 25-yard run in the second quarter. Rypien found Kiourkas just before halftime and 10 seconds into the third quarter and it was 27-10. Six minutes later it was 40-10.
Beaty was injured early in the second quarter and left the field after a lengthy delay.