By Tom Usher
DELPHOS – Anna’s Reid Lininger didn’t have a second to think about his options on a Delphos St. John’s onside kick.
He gathered in the high-hopper and off he went.
Lininger’s 48-yard kickoff return for a TD helped Anna post a 42-21 victory over Delphos St. John’s on Saturday at Stadium Park in Delphos.
Anna led 14-7 at the half, then expanded its lead to 28-7 after two quick TDs by tailback Aidan Endsley. But Aaron Reindel brought the Blue Jays back, with TD runs of 3 and 4 yards. That got St. John’s within 28-21 with 4:46 to go.
So the Blue Jays set up for the onside kick. James Garrett kicked a high hopper that Lininger grabbed and scooted untouched 48 yards to the endzone for the score. That pushed the Anna lead to 35-21 with 4:41 to go.
“The ball was in the air, so I just tried to make something out of it,” Lininger said. “I caught it above my head, but I didn’t think quick about getting down with it. Once I got it, there was a big gap in front of me.”
Anna is now 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the Midwest Athletic Conference with a big test coming up Friday at home against Marion Local. St. John’s is 3-2 and 2-1.
“I was surprised as everyone else was, but he makes some pretty smart football plays,” Anna coach Nick Marino said of Lininger’s TD return. “That broke it open and kind of sealed it so that was awesome.”
St. John’s coach Todd Schulte said, “You have to go get the ball and make a tackle (on that play). It’s pretty simple.”
Endsley led the Anna offense with 153 yards rushing on 23 carries. He had TD runs of 65 and 8 yards. He also started the third quarter by returning the kickoff for an 82-yard TD. That gave Anna a 21-7 lead.
Endsley then broke a 65-yard TD run to give the Rockets a 28-7 lead with 9:57 left in the third quarter.
St. John’s main problem was turnovers. It ended up losing three fumbles and had one interception. Anna’s first 14 points came off of Blue Jays’ lost fumbles, as the Rockets built a 14-0 lead with 1:25 left in the first quarter.
“You can’t give a team a three and a half quarter head start on you, then say, ‘We might as while try to play.’ They are too good for that,” Schulte said. “The lights came on tonight and maybe the stage was a little bit bigger than what we were ready for.”
Anna quarterback Travis Meyer returned in the second half after leaving with a knee injury in the second quarter. He completed 8 of 11 for 63 yards. Meyer ran for 15 yards.
“I was glad to see him gut it out,” Marino said. “It was a big lift for the team seeing him come back and play.”