PEYTON — Cold, wind and mist are the kind of weather factors that will take the air out of any passing game.
That’s why it was all the better for the Class 1A No. 4 Florence Huskies. A heavy ground attack, led by Jacob Kennedy’s four rushing touchdowns led the Huskies to a 48-6 win over No. 10 Peyton.
Taking the ball after winning the state-wide coin flip, the Huskies (3-0 overall, 2-0 Tri-Peaks) immediately went to their bruising running back Owen Busetti. The senior set up several of Kennedy’s touchdowns while adding two of his own. They did all as wind speeds picked up and temperature started dropping.
“You find out who the toughest team is (in this weather),” Busetti said. “You have to be tough and you have to be gritty.”
It’s the standard that the team hopes to maintain for the remainder of the year. If Florence is going to be stopped, Kennedy and Busetti must be slowed down and that’s a task well easier said than done.
The Panthers (2-1, 1-1) struggled to get any offense going during the early stages of the game but got several chances by recovering two Florence fumbles.
But even with the turnovers, it was tough to generate momentum as Peyton went into the locker room at halftime having gained fewer than 50 total yards.
“We just stuck to the grind,” Busetti said. “We had to focus and execute on every play.
A big run from Wes Hart on the first offensive drive for Peyton certainly got the attention of the Huskies but they quickly adjusted and slowed the attack.
Peyton also got their hands on a little momentum late in the first half thanks to sophomore quarterback Gunner Graham’s ability to find open receivers through the air.
Florence quickly quelled any Peyton momentum to start the second half as Kennedy found the end zone on two quick possessions to initiate the running clock.
Coach Jeremy Nix was pleased overall with the performance from his team but wouldn’t mind seeing some mistakes cleaned up as the Huskies still have a big game against CSCS on the horizon.
“You have to be able to play through games like this,” Nix said. “It’s not getting any warmer. We have to find a way to make sure we’re not turning the ball over.”
The key for the team going forward will be its ability to run the ball as effectively as it did Thursday night.
That means a lot of push up front from the offensive line and finding the gaps and moving through them quickly.
“Our offensive line takes pride in its run-blocking,” Nix said. “And those backs are pretty special.”
With a shortened schedule this season, the games feel more like a sprint than a marathon and Nix’s boys don’t mind taking that expression literally with its powerful run game.