SAND HILLS — The only teams that truly win a game in May are wearing batting helmets, not shoulder pads.
But Friday night at Bozeman it was obvious that the players from Rutherford and Bozeman left the field with a little hop in their step following a football jamboree scrimmage.
North Bay Haven? Well, the Buccaneers left with more of a limp.
Rutherford marked head coach Loren Tillman’s return to his alma mater with a 21-0 shutout of North Bay Haven and 14-0 whitewash of Bozeman in its two halves, play limited to 10-minute quarters.
Bozeman polished off a diminished North Bay Haven squad 28-0.
Despite the Rams’ dominance on the scoreboard against the Bucs they only held a 112-105 edge in total yardage. Where they had a large advantage was in big plays which resulted in all three touchdowns in slightly more than 6 minutes of playing time.
That followed a scoreless first quarter where threatening possessions were sidetracked by faulty pass protection. Rutherford also had a touchdown by KD Heard called back on a holding penalty inside the NBH 10.
The Bucs followed with consecutive sacks by Vincent Weaver and Cooper Lovett to keep the game scoreless. Their injuries already were beginning to accumulate on the sideline by the first quarter, however, and eventually they would have more players knocked out of action than they would register first downs.
Rutherford finally opened the scoring when quarterback Daryl Wilson, the third used by the Rams to that point, connected with Trevon Sims for 23 yards on fourth-and-8. Sims basically adjusted to a floater and made the play to finally get Rutherford untracked.
From there, Heard lined up at wingback and took a pitch from quarterback Brannon Richardson before straightening and passing downfield. He found Chris Dickerson in stride for a 46-yard touchdown pass, and with 1:53 remaining in the half Sims returned an interception 50 yards to score.
Billy Thompson made three extra points for the 21-0 final.
“It’s a learning process for the players from the pregame meal, to traveling to the postgame stuff,” Tillman said following the final half of play.
“It’s all good right now. We had a check list of what we wanted to do tonight.”
North Bay Haven had Cameron Gantt shake loose for a 27-yard run and quarterback Ray Tynan connected on consecutive passes on the Bucs’ final possession.
The first was 12 yards to Michael Panariello and the second 19 yards to Jake Bingham. If not for a dropped pass deep in Rutherford territory NBH probably would have broken through.
As it was, injuries and ragged play piled up in the Bucs’ second half against Bozeman. Where they were especially limited was on both lines and Bozeman had its way from the opening snap.
The Bucks’ dominance was demonstrated by an edge in total yards of 147-1 in the first quarter. They resultantly scored with ease.
Tyler Bates caught touchdown passes of 12 and 15 yards from Taylor Strickland and Hunter Kruger’s 9-yard TD romp and a conversion run by Cameron Hofmeister made it 20-0 after one quarter.
Kruger scored his second touchdown on a 30-yard fumble recovery and Jaedon Dorsey later returned a Bucs’ fumble 28 yards to dismiss NBH’s only scoring threat.
Strickland was 4 of 5 passing for 59 yards and two touchdowns, Hofmeister rushed for 84 yards on 8 carries and Kruger had 54 yards on 4 attempts.
The only solace for North Bay Haven was that it was a spring game that carried no weight other than as a transition into summer workouts.
“That was not real good,” NBH head coach Jeff Lee said. “I was sorry anyone had to see that, but sometimes that happens in the spring.”
Rutherford and Bozeman played a scoreless first quarter in the final half before the Rams pulled away. Tillman used a spread offense most of the night, more to provide running lanes for quarterbacks Heard and Richardson than to fill the air with short passes.
Against Bozeman, Rutherford came out in the I-formation with Travaries Williams at fullback and Heard at tailback.
“Just something else we wanted to see on our check list,” Tillman said.
After its initial series Rutherford returned to the spread. Heard ran for 77 yards on eight carries and got Rutherford close with an open-field dash that produced 35 yards. Richardson ran 16 yards to the 2 and fullback James Caldwell went over from there with 8:11 left in the second quarter.
Bozeman forced a Rutherford punt and took over with 3:49 left at its 20 still trailing only 7-0. Rams linebacker Sawyer McDougald settled matters when he intercepted Strickland’s pass in the right flat at the 18 and brought it to the 2.
This time Richardson punched it in for the final touchdown of the evening.
“In the first half I thought our physicality was good, and in the second half at times I thought we showed flashes,” Bozeman coach Lyle Messer said.
“We get them (Rutherford) at the end of August here in a kickoff classic, so we’ll see how much better we get over the summer.”
Hofmeister had another solid half with 55 yards on 7 attempts and finished the night with 139 yards rushing. Kruger added a 27-yard reception to his offensive total.