Christian Hicks

Christian Hicks of Hampshire tracks down Colton Rosenberger late in the 3rd quarter. 

Preston scores 24 unanswered points to knock off Hampshire 37-14

SUNRISE SUMMIT — Energy was flowing around Rannells Field on Friday night as temperatures were in the mid-80’s and fans were buzzing about the new Hampshire football team. What would it look like? A hurry up offense. An aggressive blitzing defense. It was time to find out.

The Trojans looked confident leaving the locker room as the team sprinted on the field led by a pair of seniors who were waving the Star Spangled Banner and the West Virginia state flag as they ripped through the “Nightie Night Knights” banner held by the cheerleaders.

Just three plays later in Coach Aaron Rule’s debut, Hampshire was dancing in the endzone as Trevor Sardo hauled in a 66-yard pass from QB Tra Bryson to give the Trojans an early lead.

When asked why the Trojans took to the air so early in the game, Coach Rule explained, “We ran a concept that would pull the outside linebacker out and brought our split end right in behind them with a simple slant route in which Trevor was able to catch the ball on the run, found the free safety and split him and the corner and it was a footrace from there.”

It was 7-0 in favor of the good guys, after Christian Hicks converted the PAT, but the feeling of exuberance didn’t last long as Preston responded immediately with a score of their own when Colton Rosenberger punched it in on a 1-yard run to tie the game at 7.

On the next possession for Hampshire, a fumble gave the ball back to Preston who punched in another touchdown off a 2-yard run by Jesse Gribble to give Preston a 13-7 lead after a missed PAT.

The 2nd play of the 2nd quarter resulted in another touchdown for Trevor Sardo as he hauled in a 57-yard bomb thrown by Tra Bryson to give Hampshire a 14-13 lead after the successful PAT by Hicks.

At the 10:23 mark in the 2nd quarter, Sardo had 2 receptions for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns, but that was the last time he touched the ball.

“This team is very resilient and we take what the defense gives us,” explained Coach Rule when asked why Sardo didn’t have another chance to run with the rock.

“It wasn't that we weren't trying to get the ball in Trevor's hands, but as I spoke before, we have to distribute the football and rely on a team effort. We have several key guys we can put the ball in their hands, so I want to be able to target many different options. It's my job to find those matchups and take advantage of them. So again, it wasn't as though we went away from him, we were just taking advantage of what the defense was giving us.”

Preston managed to score their 3rd rushing touchdown of the game when Ayden Bishoff trotted across the goal line late in the 2nd quarter but another missed PAT gave the Knights a 1-possession lead 19-13 entering halftime.

There was a lot to be positive about entering halftime for the green and white as Hampshire amassed over 190 yards of offense. Perhaps the biggest item to discuss in the locker room was how to slow down the rushing attack of Preston who racked up 109 yards on the ground over the first two quarters.

Optimism for a win faded quickly in the 2nd half as the Knights took the opening possession down the field and scored a touchdown when QB Trevor Thomas connected with Colton Rosenberger on a 29-yard reception to give the Knights a 25-14 advantage.

Offensively the 2nd half was not pretty for the Trojans as they tallied a total of 31 yards and fumbled the football twice.

“Preston did a good job in the 2nd half of keeping the ball out of our hands,” said Coach Rule.

“They had long drives and we were limited to 8 plays in the 3rd quarter and I feel our guys were a bit gassed and I'll take the blame for that. We lost the football on a fumble and that really was a kick in the gut when we were trying to pick up some momentum.”

Instead the momentum went in reverse as Preston QB Trevor Thomas called his own number late in the 3rd quarter to score a 1-yard rushing TD to give the Knights a 31-14 lead.

Early in the 4th quarter, the Trojans attempted to fight their way back into the game but a fumble gave the ball back to the Knights, who quickly made Hampshire pay, scoring a touchdown 1 play later when QB Trevor Thomas connected with Jaxson Lewis on a 21-yard pass play to give Preston a 37-14 advantage.

Although the 23-point margin of defeat was hard to swallow for the coaching staff, Rule still found positives from the performance.

“The biggest positive from Friday night was the fact these kids never gave up. They could have easily thrown in the towel and started belly-aching and complaining, but they didn't. They stayed poised, continued to do everything we asked of them, and we battled. We were able to establish a few good run plays in the 2nd half and some different combinations on offense and defense. But again, the Never Accept attitude and our relentlessness throughout the entire game is the biggest positive we can gain from this game.”

Statistically Preston racked up 25 1st downs with 221 yards rushing and 144 yards passing. Jesse Gribble wound up with 86 yards on the ground and 1 TD, while Colton Rosenberger had 76 yards and 1 TD. Trevor Thomas finished with 144 yards passing and 2 TD’s.

Hampshire had a total of 7 1st downs with 14 yards rushing and 209 yards passing. Alex Pritts led the way with 15 yards while Chris Carr and Hunter Staub both finished with 10 yards on the ground. Tra Bryson was 7 for 15 for a total of 209 yards and 2 touchdowns while throwing 1 interception. Trevor Sardo finished with 2 catches for 123 yards and 2 TDs, Christian Hicks had 2 catches for 59 yards, and Hunter Staub had 1 catch for 17 yards.

Next up for Hampshire is the Hall of Fame game on Friday night at Rannells Field against Musselman with kickoff starting at 7 p.m. o

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