LIVINGSTON – The Darlington football team had plenty to celebrate following Friday’s season finale, but head coach Scott Zywicki knows if his Redbirds hope to achieve their ultimate goal they are going to have to turn in better all-around performances.
The #2-ranked Redbirds (9-0 overall, 6-0 SWAL) locked up sole possession of their fourth straight SWAL championship by rolling over host Iowa-Grant, 47-0, at IGHS on Friday, Oct. 14, giving Coach Zywicki his 100th career varsity victory in the process.
“I’m proud of the kids. Winning a conference title in one of our main goals. It’s tier number two in my eyes. The first is to take care of business in the non-conference games, and then take care of conference. Now, obviously, the next goal is the ultimate goal for everybody and that’s not just to get to state but to win state. We got our work cut out for us,” said Zywicki.
The Redbirds’ offense continued to roll through the opposition, establishing a new state record with 533 points scored in nine regular season games behind another stellar performance from the backfield combination of Johnson and Johnson. Senior halfback Hunter Johnson ran nine times for 144 yards and four touchdowns to lead the way, while his cousin, senior halfback Trevor Johnson, added a 68-yard TD run and a 34-yard TD reception to aid the rout.
H. Johnson scored on runs of 12 and 9 yards in the first quarter to lift the Redbirds out to a 14-0 lead.
T. Johnson’s 68-yard TD scamper started the scoring in the second quarter. Junior fullback Kameron Blosch followed with a 24-yard scoring jaunt with 3:24 remaining in the stanza, and H. Johnson hit the hat-trick with a 14-yard score with 1:30 to go in the half to extend the lead to 33-0.
T. Johnson hauled in a 34-yard scoring strike from senior quarterback Jared Meister less than three minutes into the second half to start the continuous clock, and H. Johnson sprinted 41-yard to pay dirt late in the third quarter to close the scoring at 47-0.
The ‘Birds cruised the rest of the way to earn the conference crown outright and give Coach Zywicki his milestone victory.
“It feels good. It’s as much about the kids who have gone though our program and have had success, and about all the coaches involved in the program than it is about me. I look at this as something that says I’m being a successful teacher to the kids,” commented Zywicki, who currently holds a 100-37 career record at DHS.
Darlington outgained the Panthers (5-4, 4-2) on the ground, 332 to 93, while the hosts led the way through the air, 124 to 63.
T. Johnson finished the night with 89 rushing yards on four carries and he added one catch for 34 yards. H. Johnson also had a catch for 29 yards with Meister connecting on both his pass attempts in the game.
Junior kicker Connor McGowan tacked on five extra points in the game to set a new school record with 69 PATs. He passed former Redbird Alberto Della Toffola (65-of-72 in 1996) and teammate Chad Golackson (65-for-81 in 2015) who shared the record with 65 PATs. McGowan is 69-for-75 on his attempts this season.
Darlington was seeded #1 in their regional bracket and will host #8-seeed Brookwood (4-5) at Martens Field on Friday, Oct. 21, in a WIAA Division 6 Level 1 playoff game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“Hopefully, we don’t get too full of ourselves. That’s the thing that concerns me a bit, thinking we don’t have to prepare as much or that we don’t have to put the effort in. If you overlook anyone, you’re sitting home faster than you want,” said Zywicki
Darlington…. 14 19 14 0 – 47
Iowa-Grant… 0 0 0 0 – 0
D – Hunter Johnson, 12 run (Connor McGowan kick)
D – H. Johnson, 9 run (McGowan kick)
D – Trevor Johnson, 68 run (kick blocked)
D – Kameron Blosch, 24 run (McGowan kick)
D – H. Johnson, 14 run (kick failed)
D – T. Johnson, 34 pass from Jared Meister (McGowan kick)
D – H. Johnson, 41 run (McGowan kick)
Team Stats: First Downs– D 8; IG 12. Rushing– D 27-332; IG 37-93. Passing– D 2-2-0, 63; IG 6-20-2, 124. Fumbles-Lost– D 1-0; IG 3-2. Penalties– D 5-45; IG 3-30.
Darlington Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Hunter Johnson, 9-144-4; Trevor Johnson, 4-89-1. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Jared Meister, 2-2-0-1, 63. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– T. Johnson, 1-34-1; H. Johnson, 1-29-0.