PIQUA — Lehman Catholic has made a habit of running through Northwest Central Conference play. The Cavaliers started their 2018 slate of conference games on Saturday at Alexander Stadium the same way.
Lehman got off to a very fast start against the Ridgemont Golden Gophers with three touchdowns in the first four minutes and 19 seconds, which sparked a 63-0 thrashing.
“We made a commitment to get our running game going, because it’s been bad,” Lehman Catholic coach Dick Roll said. “We worked at it this week and changed some blocking schemes. Tonight it worked.”
Senior quarterback Elliott Gilardi got things started in the first quarter by tossing a 17-yard TD pass to RJ Bertini to put Lehman up 7-0 with 10:24 left.
After a three-and-out series by Ridgemont, Bertini received the punt and ran it back 45 yards for another touchdown with 8:40 left in the first quarter. Defensive lineman Evan Fogt got in the action on the next series by intercepting a pass from Ridgemont QB Troy Cameron and returning it to the 3-yard line. Drew Barhorst took it in on the next play for another Lehman TD.
Later in the first quarter, Gilardi ran for a first down for a 20-yard gain. On a third-and-long, Tyler Sollman took it 12 yards for a touchdown.
Gilardi later connected with wideout Brendon O’Leary for a 35-yard touchdown, which put the Cavaliers up 35-0 with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
Senior kicker Michael Denning helped the Cavaliers take the early lead. Denning — who was first team all-Southwest District last year — booted each kickoff into the end zone for touchback. Ridgemont’s offense did little to move the ball and finished with negative yards in the first half. Lehman started each of its drives around midfield.
Roll said it’s a big help for the shorthanded Cavaliers (2-2, 1-0 NWCC), which have a roster of about 25 players.
“That’s big for us,” Roll said. “We don’t have to load up our kickoff team with our other kids. We can put young kids out there. That’s a chance for them to play.
“That was the biggest thing about tonight. We don’t have a JV schedule, but these kids got a game tonight. We had our young kids in on the third series on defense. They played more than our regular kids on defense, which is good. They need that experience.”
The decisive margin continued to widen in the second quarter as Gilardi ran for a 19-yard TD and Sollman recovered a fumble and returned it for a score to give Lehman a 49-0 advantage.
The Cavaliers were not done yet. Logan Bunker scored on a 6-yard run to put Lehman up 56-0, which was the halftime score.
The second half was played with a running clock. Gilardi, who was first-team all-Ohio last year, ran for another score from eight yards out.
Gilardi was 4-of-5 for 69 yards while freshman Michael McFarland was 2-of-6 for 53 yards. Sollman led the Cavaliers with six carries for 79 yards while Gilardi ran for 69 on six carries. Eight players combined to help Lehman amass 274 rushing yards on 26 carries.
Denning averaged 58.9 yards per kickoff and made eight extra points. Gilardi booted one extra point in the second half while Denning rested his leg.
The Cavaliers — which put a running block on every NWCC opponent last year — will travel to Marion Elgin (1-3, 0-1) next Friday. Elgin lost a shootout with Riverside 48-44 on Friday.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Roll said. “We’ve got to keep working at it. It’s going to be a challenge for us next week. Elgin brings a totally different offensive package. That’s our challenge.”