Simpson pummels Leake in season opener
Southern Sports & Travel
Last season the Simpson Cougars ran the table in capturing the Class AA state championship going a perfect 14-0. Two huge factors were the stable signal calling of quarterback Brandon Johnston and the power running of tailback Cade Eiland. Many questioned how Simpson would replace those two seniors but after last night’s 42-13 domination over 8th ranked Leake in Madden those questions may have been quickly put to bed.
The top ranked defending champions chewed up 426 yards on the ground and broke open a 14-6 halftime lead to manhandle Leake in the second half and in doing so displayed a stable of backs capable of inflicting massive damage on opposing defenses.
Senior tailback Michael Layton rushed for 160 yards on 21 carries and hit pay-dirt three times and junior tailback Andrew Berry gathered 108 yards on 6 carries to help Simpson outscore home-standing Leake 28-7 in the second half.
“I was a little nervous before the start of the game but also really excited,” said Layton. “Our line did a great job of opening up holes all night.”
Leake was looking for a solid start in hopes of pulling an upset but the Cougar defense forced a quick three and out for the Rebel offense on the opening possession of the contest.
On Simpson’s opening possession they looked as if they hadn’t missed a beat from last season’s championship squad. Michael Layton exploded off the left side for 48 yards to the Leake 6 yard line on the Cougar’s first play from scrimmage and the senior scampered in on the next play to give Simpson a quick lead with 10:04 left in the opening quarter. Seth Blackledge’s PAT was blocked giving the Cougars a 6-0 advantage.
Leake’s offense struggled in the first quarter against the Cougar defense and managed just one first down while turning the football over twice but while the Rebel offense couldn’t move the football their defense settled in for the remainder of the quarter and kept the game close at 7-0.
Simpson produced a signature Cougar drive after getting backed up to their own 9 yard line following a Leake punt with 5:57 remaining in the half.
Four different players combined for 91 yards on the ground and quarterback Josh Hankins capped the 91 yard, 10 play drive with a 9 yard keeper with 1:03 remaining in the half. Michael Layton crashed off the right side for a successful 2-point conversion to give Simpson a 14-0 lead.
Leake looked to be heading into the halfway point with no momentum and staring at a two touchdown deficit but lightning struck on the kickoff following the Simpson score.
Leake tight-end Will Myers took in the pooch kick at the Rebel 27 yard line and found daylight around the ride side and raced 73 yards for a touchdown to give the home squad a much needed boost with 49 seconds remaining in the half.
Simpson’s Shane Brown blocked the Leake PAT attempt and the half closed with Simpson holding a slim 14-6 lead.
“We knew at halftime what we had to do,” said tailback Michael Layton. “We were moving the ball well and knew what we could do in the second half.”
The momentum shift before the half was short lived as Simpson took the opening possession of the second half and methodically marched 61 yards on 7 plays and pushed the Cougar lead to 21-6 on a Michael Layton 15 yard score with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
Leake coughed the football up on their second play from scrimmage of the second half. Tristan Shivers recovered the football at the Leake 28 yard line and advanced it to the Rebel 17 just 13 seconds into Leake’s possession.
Michael Layton chewed up 15 yards on 1st down to set up his third score of the night, a 2 yard plunge at the 7:36 mark. Seth Blackledge’s PAT pushed the Simpson lead to 28-6.
Simpson put the game away on their third possession of the half with a 99 yard, 9 play drive that took 4 1/2 minutes off the clock. In that drive Christopher Sullivan took over the signal calling duties and the senior cashed in with a 7 yard keeper with 48 seconds left in the quarter to give the Cougars a 35-6 lead.
Things regressed for Leake as a low snap on a punt attempt resulted in a fumble recovered by Simpson defensive back Joshua Broadhead at the Rebel 26 yard line.
One play later Simpson sophomore Jacob Allen plowed 26 yards to score his first touchdown as a Cougar. Blackledge added the PAT and with 10:39 remaining in the contest Simpson’s lead had swelled to 42-6.
Leake scored with 5:58 left in the game on a Taylor Nazary 1 yard dive. John Sisson added the PAT for the final score of 42-13.
Layton led Simpson with 160 yards on the ground and 3 touchdowns and credited playing behind Cade Eiland last season. “Cade was an excellent role model and I learned a lot from watching him run the football last season.”
Andrew Berry produced 108 yards on 8 carries, Josh Hankins had 49 yards on 9 carries and a touchdown and Chris Sullivan picked up 37 yards on 7 carries and a score.
Josh Hankins recorded a fumble recovery and an interception on defense for the Cougars and the Simpson defense held Leake to 133 yards of total offense with a large bulk of those yards coming on Leake’s last possession of the night.
Simpson will host Presbyterian (0-1) next week while Leake travels to Immanuel (0-1) for a District 2AA matchup.
Post game with Simpson Head Coach Billy Wayne Hankins