Sweet victory. The early weeks of the 2019 season have been unkind to McIntosh, but they kept plugging away. Their patience paid off in their first win of the season, a 17-7 road victory over the Luella Lions Friday night.
Crushing injuries and heartbreaking loses had the Chiefs entering the night 0-3 but it did not damper their spirits.
“Our motto for this year is preparation, brotherhood, and grit, and we’re seeing that show up every single day,” said head coach Lee Belknap.
The plan of attack was a simple one against Luella. Be smart and execute, and the rest would work itself out.
“We challenged the guys during pre game talk today for the offense to get four yards a carry and for the defense to keep the ball in front of you. There’s genius in simplicity, and that’s exactly what we did tonight,” said Belknap. “To have that patience takes discipline, and discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. It’s real easy to jump offsides, and it’s real easy to not hold that block, but if you just hold it and get those four yards, we’re in business.”
Aiming to chip away at the Lions, the Chiefs instead opened up the game with a big play as Carter Boicourt nearly returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Instead, he set up his team on the Luella 33. The prime position was nearly squandered, but fullback Matthew Allum punched his way through the line for six yards on 4th and 1 to keep it alive. On the next play Malique Mackey beat the Lions to the edged and ran it in for an 18-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
McIntosh recovered the ensuing kickoff but could not capitalize. Luella forced a turnover on downs on defense, then took advantage of a pass interference flag to extend their own drive. Kylief Paige rumbled for 45 yards deep into the red zone, and quarterback Jamal Vazquez ran it in from 10 yards out to tie it at 7-7. It would be the last points allowed by the swarming McIntosh defense.
The Chiefs kicked their plan into gear on the following possession that stretched from the first quarter until midway through the second. Four times they were faced with a 3rd down, and each time Allum drove through the defense for a conversion.
Allum didn’t pile up a big yardage total, finishing with only 70 yards on 21 attempts, but he scored the hugely important yards. Time and again, when the Chiefs were facing a 3rd or 4th and short yardage situation, they handed off to Allum and he bowled his way through the heart of the line to move the chains.
He was quick to give the praise to his offensive line of Luis Salkeld, Breckin Ceci, Robert Clarke, Carson Moore, and Nick Kallas and tight end Joey Pressel.
“I really trust those guys. I wouldn’t be anything without my offensive line,” said Allum. “They work hard, and I just follow behind them.”
Dominick Cosper capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to stake McIntosh to a 14-7 lead with 5:35 left in the half.
Luella nearly knotted it up before the break, using another questionable pass interference flag and a 20-yard pass from Vazquez to Hunter Hensley to chew up big yardage. Vazquez completed a pass across the middle to Lamar Overton down to the 2 yard line, but the Lions were out of timeouts and could not spike the ball in time to attempt a field goal, preserving McIntosh’s lead at halftime.
The second half belonged to the defenses as the first three possessions ended in turnovers. McIntosh’s Jacob Woods intercepted a pass, Luella picked one off on the next play, and Isaiah Mintah stripped the ball for an Andrew Villiger recovery, but none of the turnovers resulted in points in a scoreless third quarter.
Looking to put the game away, the Chiefs took over at midfield midway through the fourth quarter and made it count, turning again to Allum to keep the chains moving. On 4th and 3, he ran for five yards, and on 3rd and 3, he pushed ahead for six. The slow and steady approach melted away the clock, setting up a game-clinching field goal attempt. William Mason’s kick was true from 25 yards out to stake the Chiefs to a 17-7 lead with just 37 seconds to play.
They fully put the game away when Luella failed to cover the ensuing squib kick, and Cosper recovered it, setting up the cherished victory formation for the first time this year.
The victory was the model of McIntosh football. The team comes before the player.
“It was a great team effort,” said Allum. “We all just come out and have a great time every week, and, win or lose, we always throw it out and focus on the next week.”
With their first win under their belt, the Chiefs focus forward. They can rest up their bumps and bruises with this week’s bye, then it’s onward to the second season and region play. That’s when it really counts.