Estherville Lincoln Central's defense came around in the 2011 season opener against Spencer on Friday, but the offense never quite got on track as the Tigers won 21-2.
Unofficially, Spencer out-gained ELC 294 yards to 152. A big chunk of that came on the opening drive as well as a 71-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers had the kind of drive a team wants after a 0-9 season. Spencer took the opening kickoff 70 yards in 5 minutes, 4 seconds eating up the yardage on each carry.
Estherville Lincoln Central quarterback Joe Clayton (7) falls forward for another couple yards during the Midgets’ opening drive against Spencer on Friday.
EDN photo by David Swartz
Only a couple of false start penalties slowed the Tigers on their drive. Spencer took a chance on fourth-and-two from the 10-yard line and Jack Randall broke free into the end zone with 6:56 remaining in the first quarter.
ELC's first drive didn't start badly with Billy Snyder returning the kick to the Midgets 31.
ELC eked out a first down on a quarterback keeper by Joe Clayton, who followed with a second first down on a 14-yard pass to Derek Nieland.
ELC drove into Tiger territory and reached the 32-yard line when Snyder converted a third-and-four with a 5-yard carry.
But then a 5-yard penalty, a high snap that forced Clayton to take a loss pushed ELC back. On third-and-11, Clayton threw his first interception of the night as Max Rasmussen picked off a pass.
The Tigers didn't have the ball long as they fumbled it two plays later with Andy Segura grabbing the loose ball.
ELC again was unable to take advantage and was unable to convert and fourth-and-11.
Spencer was helped by a pass interference call to start the second quarter as they moved to midfield. The Tigers kept a steady run diet and drove inside the 20. ELC forced a fourth-and-1, but quarterback Charlie Rettey converted on the keeper. Two plays later, Randall took the ball in from 12 yards out. The kick by Mark Malm made the score 14-0.
The rest of the half was played mostly in ELC territory. Clayton threw his second interception, but Spencer was unable to convert as Malm missed a 35-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining.
The two teams played a defensive battle throughout the third quarter.
"We didn't line up right a few times in the first half, but we made some good adjustments in the second," said ELC coach Chuck Fandel. "We showed the guys on the board what they need to do. Once we got the alignments right, the linebackers knew their assignments and they filled that gap."
In the fourth quarter, Rettey connected with Rasmussen on a 71-yard strike as Rasmussen got behind the ELC secondary.
The Midgets tried to respond as Snyder returned the kickoff to the ELC 45-yard line. ELC drove inside the Tiger 30, but Clayton's third interception, again picked off by Rasmussen, ended the threat.
But a couple minutes later, ELC forced Spencer to punt. The snap went over the punter's head out of the back of the end zone as ELC put its first points of the season on the board with a safety at the 6:01 mark.
ELC's offense had one final chance to score, but on a fourth down inside the 15, an incomplete pass ended the threat.
For ELC, Clayton led the rushing attack with 39 yards on 13 carries. Tucker Milburn on 20 yards on four carries.
Clayton was 11-of-27 passing for 102 yards and four interceptions.
Randall led Spencer with 148 yards on 24 carries. The Tigers were 3-of-8 passing for 85 yards.
ELC (0-1) travels to Emmetsburg next week