By JIM MISUNAS
HOISINGTON — Larned High School football coach A.B. Stokes knew that turnovers and penalties were not a good recipe for success against defending co-league champion Hoisington.
The Indians were plagued by turnovers and the defense was torched for big offensive plays in a 53-21 setback against Central Kansas League rival Hoisington Friday.
Stokes said penalties and early mistakes cost the Indians, who trailed 35-0 before playing much better. Larned drew more than 100 yards in penalties and several others were declined. The Cardinals scored touchdowns after a fumble, interception and a deflected punt.
“We’ve got to play better football,” said Stokes. “We’ve got to get off to a lot better start. I know we’ll play better defensively because we played nine new defensive starters.”
All-league back Hunter Hanzlick and utility player Steffan Dolechek converted big plays off crisp blocking and missed tackles in Larned’s secondary. Dolechek scored on a 76-run run and a 68-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Specht.
There were a few bright spots for the Indians.
Kolby Keith returned a kickoff for a touchdown. QB-SS Evan Skelton rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on a dazzling fourth-down scamper. Skelton showed off a solid passing touch and escaped the pocket several times for decent yardage.
Isiah Perez returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and completed a 30-yard pass to Dalton Bright.
Larned’s starters on the offensive side were QB Evan Skelton, TE Tanner Galliart, WR Dalton Bright, TB Jon Herter, WB Landon Erway, RT Colton Henbest, C Blake Ritchie, LG Lukas Anderson, LT De Shaun Clark (320), RG Marcus Allen (345), and WR Isiah Perez. Herter left the game with an injury.
The Indians did a decent job giving Skelton time to throw. Larned had mixed success running plays quickly from the line of scrimmage. The running game was spotty against an experienced Cardinal defense.
Defensive starters were S Skelton, CB Galliart, S Kolby Keith, LB Brandon Bartz, DE Gary Barker, LB Nate Williams, LB Herter, LB Erway, DE Henbest, NG Clark and CB Perez.
Larned’s defense made a stop to start the second half, but a poorly kicked punt drew a flag that drew a roughing the kicker penalty. The Cardinals dominated time of possession in the second half.
State-ranked Class 2A LaCrosse (1-0) visits Larned Friday.
LaCrosse opened with a hard-fought 22-12 win over Olpe. The Leopards scored 16 points in the first quarter. Quarterback Clayton Herdman rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Herdman completed two passes to Ryan Hayes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
“Herdman was the difference tonight,” Olpe head coach Chris Schmidt said. “He’s a pretty good, athletic kid.”
LaCrosse led 2-0 on a safety after a poor snap on a punt. Herdman scored on a 47-yard touchdown run and connected with Ryan Hayes for a 12-yard touchdown pass.