No. 4 Bulldogs manhandle Midgets in opener

Hanger, Shoemaker combine for five TDs, defensive unit responds with stout effort

— It was easy for South Callaway head coach Tim Rulo to admit that there were still plenty of wrinkles to smooth out after his Bulldogs administered a 49-point demolition.

Senior slot receivers Cory Hanger and Mason Shoemaker combined to account for five touchdowns and South Callaway — ranked No. 4 in Class 2 — officially christened its new FieldTurf surface in punishing fashion by overpowering Class 1 Putnam County 55-6 in Friday night’s season opener.

The Bulldogs’ defense did its part by surrendering a scant 28 total yards in the first half and delivering an early score of its own, a 13-yard fumble return by senior linebacker Dylan Hare that put South Callaway up 14-0 less than 2 minutes into the game. The Bulldogs set the tone for the runaway victory at the very outset when Putnam County mishandled the opening kickoff and South Callaway recovered the ball at the Midgets’ 10-yard line.

Senior fullback Dakoda Ballard then slid through an opening off left tackle on the ensuing play and raced into the end zone for the Bulldogs’ first score of the season. From there, South Callaway quickly accumulated the points.

“We’re breaking in some new coaches, calling out some stuff and getting them used to communicating from the sideline … so they were learning that,” Rulo said. “We’re trying out some new technology things on our sideline, so all in all, it’s like a trial run.

“You’re just trying to work everything out, even in a season opener. You don’t always want that, but that’s what it kind of looked like to me. It just looked like the preview. It gives us a lot of things that we can practice to get better from, so that’s good. I saw some bright spots.”

The Bulldogs — who produced all of their scoring in the first half — generated 372 yards of total offense, with 328 of that output coming from their running game. Hanger made it 21-0 when he caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Troy Hentges with 4:47 to go in the first quarter.

Hanger followed up by bolting 49 yards for a score with :55 remaining in the quarter, and Hentges stretched the lead to 34-0 on a 2-yard keeper at the 10:01 mark of the second quarter. Shoemaker was then responsible for consecutive, one-play scoring drives when he darted for touchdown runs of 55 and 20 yards, respectively.

South Callaway charged into halftime with a 55-0 advantage after Hanger supplied the Bulldogs’ final score on a 31-yard touchdown run with just :21 to go before the break. The first-team offense then got the rest of the night off.

Hanger finished with a game-high 81 yards rushing on only three carries, followed closely by Shoemaker’s 75 yards on his two touches. Hentges gained 61 yards in just two attempts and also completed all three of his passes for 44 yards.

Rulo credited South Callaway’s offensive line with the burst it showed in creating openings up front.

“I was really happy with our offensive line — they did a good job getting movement off the ball,” Rulo said. “We have that new muscle formation — that kind of overload formation — and we ran some plays out of that, that looked really good.”

Putnam County — which had minus-28 total yards after its first 10 offensive plays — ended up with 153 net yards, including 161 rushing. However, the majority of that sum came in the second half after the Bulldogs had turned the game over to their defensive reserves.

The Midgets avoided a shutout when junior running back Bailey McDannald scored on a 2-yard run with 1:13 to play in the game.

“I felt like we swarmed really well,” Rulo said. “I felt like they aligned fairly well. Putnam County runs a lot of unbalanced formations and we were figuring out how to align to that.”

South Callaway did commit 10 penalties for 70 yards, including three infractions that erased scores. Hanger had a touchdown catch and a punt return for a score called back, while Shoemaker had a kickoff return for a touchdown wiped out.

The Bulldogs remain at home this week when they square off against Southern Boone. The Eagles were edged by St. Pius X (Festus) 27-26 in their season opener Friday night in Ashland.

“For us — as a game — we got it in the books, it was good and we definitely need to keep (working), and I think our guys realize that,” Rulo said. “… It gives us a lot of film to break down for Southern Boone.”

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