LOUISIANA — The South Callaway Bulldogs and junior running back Trace Helsel had no difficulty getting honed in for their first road game of the season.
Helsel rushed for a game-high 158 yards and scored four touchdowns as South Callaway powered past Louisiana in a 55-12 Eastern Missouri Conference dismantling in a matchup between Bulldogs on Friday night.
South Callaway — which scored on each of its first eight possessions — improved to 2-1 on the season and 2-0 in the EMO with its second consecutive victory. Louisiana dropped to 0-3 both overall and in conference play.
"I felt like we handled distractions really well tonight," South Callaway head coach Zack Hess said. "Just the travel here and the away game, just that whole different routine that we've not experienced for the first two weeks.
"We were playing a team we've never played before, all of those things. I felt like they were pretty dialed in, they were pretty focused."
Helsel maximized only 11 carries, averaging a robust 14.4 yards per attempt. He quickly put South Callaway on the scoreboard, racing 37 yards for a touchdown with 9 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first quarter.
With South Callaway already owning a 21-0 lead, Helsel accounted for all three of its scores in the second quarter. He had a 5-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 8:31 to play in the first half, then followed that with an 8-yard scoring run — also coming on fourth down — at the 4:28 mark of the quarter.
Helsel's final touchdown run of the night, from 3 yards out with :57 remaining, sent South Callaway into halftime with a commanding 42-6 advantage.
Senior running backs Hunter Martin-Hay and Hayden Vaught added touchdown runs of 31 and 4 yards, respectively, in the first quarter for South Callaway.
Junior quarterback Sam Buckner also topped off an 11-play, 55-yard scoring drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to open the third quarter for South Callaway. Junior running back Donnie Fortner then provided South Callaway's final score on an 11-yard touchdown run to end the quarter.
Spurred by Helsel, South Callaway — which did not commit any turnovers — piled up 366 yards rushing.
"I thought our running backs did a really nice job," Hess said. "Trace really had a great game tonight — the offensive line did a really nice job giving him some room to run.
"It was clean (no turnovers). That was one of the things that we talked about, just trying to continue to do that, and we did, even with the wet conditions with the rain coming down."
Buckner completed 7-of-10 passes for 58 yards, but was sacked four times.
"One of the things that Sam is still learning and trying to improve on is getting the ball out a little quicker," Hess said. "He needs to speed that clock up a little bit — he tended to take a little bit too long.
"That's just something that we can work on."
South Callaway's defense forced two Louisiana turnovers, which were converted into points, and allowed 224 yards of total offense. A large chunk of that output came on a 75-yard touchdown burst by junior wide receiver Tramaine Chatman down the Louisiana sideline late in the second quarter.
Louisiana's other score was a 4-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Mason Washington against South Callaway's defensive reserves with 7:00 to play in the game.
"One of the things that we were concerned about was (Washington) running inside," Hess said. "I felt like our run defense, specifically in the middle there, was really stout — we really did a nice job.
"There were a couple of plays where I was really proud of how our perimeter guys came up and strung a play out."
South Callaway will play a second straight road game this week when it travels to Montgomery County for an EMO encounter. The Wildcats dropped to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the EMO after bowing in a 56-32 shootout at Bowling Green on Friday night.
South Callaway will be seeking to avenge a 53-21 loss at Montgomery County in 2019.
"We got blown out last year, so we've got to have a better mindset going into that game," Hess said. "It'll be tough because coach (John) Klekamp's got those guys playing really well the last several years.
"We've got some work to do."
Ryan Boland can be reached at (573) 826-2422, or on Twitter @FultonSunSports.