A week ago, Conway believed it had a team that was capable of competing for a state championship.
Saturday, the Tigers discovered they have a long way to go.
Conway fell 55-19 to state powerhouse Northwestern in the first-ever game in the Derrick Law Firm Kickoff Classic at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium. The Trojans’ “Air Raid” offense poured on points early and often, and the Tigers simply couldn’t keep up.
“We didn’t finish drives,” Conway coach Chuck Jordan said. “We had a couple drives had we finished, we had a chance. And we didn’t finish those drives. And defensively, we didn’t slow them down.”
That last part was a bit of an understatement.
One week after Northwestern thrashed Gaffney by a similar score, the Trojans and second-year head coach Kyle Richardson looked even more impressive. Quarterback Mason Rudolph completed 18 of his 25 passing attempts en route to 250 yards and three passing touchdowns. He also ran for a score.
Trojans tailback LaThomas Long also piled up 179 yards on just 12 carries. One of his last proved to be the biggest.
Conway’s Mykal Moody was driving the Tigers late in the second quarter – when the score was still relatively close. However, when he tried to leap into the end zone, he was stopped short and the ball squibbed into the end zone. Northwestern players pounced on the fumble, forcing the touchback.
On the next play from scrimmage, Long went up the middle and broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run.
“At that point, we were just trying to get into the half with the lead that we had,” Richardson said.
Said Jordan: “I don’t think there’s any question; that was a 14-point swing. If we go in two or three points down, as opposed to two scores down. The problem with this team [Northwestern] is that they’re so good offensively, if you get a couple scores down, they kind of force you to do some things maybe you don’t want to do. They kept the pressure on.”
In total, Conway had five turnovers in the game. Moody had that fumble and an interception, and back-up quarterback Ethan Smith threw a pair of picks. A bad snap inside the red zone ended a third-quarter Conway drive.
It was way too much to try to combat Northwestern’s high-powered offense.
“One thing you don’t do is you don’t help a good football team,” Jordan said. “And we obviously helped them tonight. They did not turn the ball over. They took advantages of their opportunities. That’s what a good team does.”
At least early, Conway seemed to have a fighting chance at keeping pace. Moody – who last week against Georgetown completed his first eight pass attempts – was perfect through 10 throws Saturday. Up until that fumble, he was 11 of 12 for 146 yards and had rushed the ball nine times for 95 yards.
The fumble, however, appeared to take the wind out of Conway’s sails. Moody finished 13-of-17 for 163 yards and 104 yards on 12 carries.
Receiver Malcolm Green finished with a team-high 98 yards (seven receptions) and tailback Jaquail Crosland finished with a respectable 87 yards on the ground.
Those numbers paled in comparison to the gaudy overall numbers Northwestern finished with – especially on the scoreboard.
NW – LaThomas Long 30 run (Foy Sully kick)
NW – Long 2 run (Sully kick)
C – Mykal Moody 7 run (PAT missed)
C – Mykal Moody 7 run (PAT missed)
NW – Rontavius McClure 25 rec from Mason Rudolph (Sully kick)
C – Moody 44 run (PAT missed)
NW – Rudolph 22 run (Sully kick)
NW – Long 80 run (PAT missed)
C – Bryan Edwards 14 rec from Ethan Smith (Jordan Sawyer kick)
NW – DuPree Hart 33 rec from Rudolph (Sully kick)
NW – Hart 47 punt return (Sully kick)
NW – McClure 9 rec from Rudolph (Sully kick)
RUSHING—NW – LaThomas Long 12-179, Mason Rudolph 6-56, DuPree Hart 4-16, Weston King 1-1, Andre Gaston 8-45. C – Jaquail Crosland 13-87, Tyreke Phillips 6-37, Mykal Moody 12-104.
PASSING—Mason Rudolph 18-25-0, 250 yards; Weston King 1-3-0, 8 yards; Matthew Worley 2-2-0, 30 yards. C – Mykal Moody 13-17-1, 163 yards; Ethan Smith 2-7-2, 11 yards.
NW – Dupree Hart 3-75, Mustafia Love 5-57, LaThomas Long 2-14, Hamp Wright 2-26, Rontavius McClure 7-105, Andre Gaston 1-8, O’Darryl Davis-Douglas 1-8. C – Malcolm Green 7-98, Sawyer Jordan 1-25, Bryan Edwards 3-27, Malik Frazier 1-5, Crosland 2-25, Tyreke Phillips1-4.
RECORDS: Northwestern 2-0; Conway 1-1