Pacific football rediscovered its scoring groove in Week 8.
After being held to 21 points in each of the previous two weeks at Owensville and Festus, the Indians (5-3, 4-1) put six touchdowns on the board to beat Hermann (3-5, 0-5), 39-14 on what was both Pacific’s homecoming and senior night.
Despite playing without multiple key offensive pieces like running back Nathan Door and wide receiver Ben Davis, both seniors, the rest of the team picked up the slack.
“We’ve been hit with the injury bug pretty bad,” Head Coach Clint Anderson said. “We have four varsity starters (who) have had season-ending (injuries) over the course of the last four-to-five weeks. It has forced us to play younger kids that otherwise would be junior varsity players. The kids and coaching staff haven’t allowed it to be an issue and the players responded with executing the game plan on Friday against Hermann. I was really happy with how the offensive line played on Friday. They came off the ball and got to the second level which allowed us to break some long runs. The receivers, especially Devon Johnson, had some great blocks downfield. Receivers blocking down field is the key to getting a long run to the endzone.”
For Matt Strong, it didn’t take long at all to get into the end zone, scoring his first of three rushing touchdowns from 33 yards out just 1:18 into the contest.
After Strong’s second score, the Bearcats answered with a Tanner Unger 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but Pacific never surrendered its early lead at any point in the game. The Indians built a two-score advantage going into the half by picking up another rushing touchdown, this time from quarterback Jobe Courtney.
The senior tandem of Strong and Courtney combined for 336 of Pacific’s 350 rushing yards on the game and Courtney, like Strong, posted three touchdowns.
Strong, officially listed as a wide receiver, went over 200 yards rushing for the second time this season, picking up 210 yards on the ground. It was his third game of the year with three or more touchdowns, the other two coming against St. Clair in Week 3 and Union in Week 4. He has run for a touchdown and averaged 10 yards per carry or more in every game this season.
Courtney’s 126 rushing yards put him over the century mark for the fourth time. He also went 3-3 passing for 62 yards.
The Bearcats added a touchdown on pass from Chase McKague to Trent Oberg at the end of the third quarter and made good on a two-point conversion, but still trailed 33-14 at that point.
Courtney’s last and shortest score came midway through the final period from seven yards. Courtney’s 73-yard score in the third quarter was the longest of the night.
Receiving, Johnson pulled in one pass for 50 yards and Nathan Midkiff caught two for 12.
In addition to leading the offense, Strong continued to be the Indians’ primary tackler with 11 tackles and two assists. Strong has 64 tackles and 21 assists on the season.
Johnson and Ian Scott both came away with interceptions in the contest as the Indians won on takeaways, 2-0.
“Coach (Andy) Emmons has done a great job getting his young team to play some inspired football and the presented a lot of challenges,” Anderson said. “We had a tough time defending the edge against sweep but we came up with some timely stops. Matt Strong did a great job coming down from the safety spot on run support. Their play-action game hurt us early on but our players got a feel for it and made adjustments as the game went on.”
Other notable tacklers for the Indians included Josh Menley (three assists) and Max Meadows (one assist) with six each. Samuel Williams recorded five tackles and two assists. Courtney added five tackles and one assist.
The Indians travel to St. James in Week 9, where the winner will claim a share of the Four Rivers Conference Championship and the loser will head into districts empty handed. Four teams (Pacific, St. Clair, Owensville and St. James) exit Week 8 with a 4-1 conference record and while the Indians and Tigers duke it out, the Bulldogs and Dutchmen will be doing the same in Owensville. That ensures that two teams will leave Week 9 tied at 5-1 in the conference to split the title.
“St. James is a really good team,” Anderson said. “They have tremendous balance on offense. They have a really good running game and can stretch the field throwing. (Ryan) Harlan has a really good deep ball and is executing the St. James offense with a great deal of efficiency. They will be a big test for us.”
The Indians have won five of the last six meetings with St. James, but were blown out 55-12 a season ago.
Hermann – 0+6+8+0=14
Pacific – 6+14+13+6=33
PAC – Matt Strong 33 run, 10:42
PAC – Strong 3 run (Trey Boyer kick), 11:07
HRM – Tanner Unger 14 run, 4:30
PAC – Jobe Courtney 29 run (Boyer kick), 2:59
PAC – Strong 13 run (Boyer kick), 11:20
PAC – Courtney 73 run (kick failed), 6:08
HRM – Trent Oberg catch from Chase McKague (2-pt good), 2:32
PAC – Courtney 7 run, 6:07