Three second quarter touchdowns sparked the Ithaca Bulldogs to a 39-6 win over the Highland Cardinals at Ithaca Saturday afternoon.
It was the 89th annual Ithaca Homecoming and Fair and a large crowd watched coach Chad Clary’s Bulldogs improve to 4-2 with the non-conference win.
Mitchell Ricco, who tied school records with six touchdowns and 298 yards rushing a week ago, scored twice in the homecoming battle. Austin Clary also ran for a pair of touchdowns. Cameron Magee caught a TD pass from Trever Koch, and Aaron Kepler provided the final touchdown with a long run. Koch threw to Magee for a two-point conversion and kicked another.
Bailey Bodenstein accounted for Highland’s touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“We had a good performance,” said coach Clary. “In the scrimmage (before the season) we passed well against them but had trouble running the ball. I feel we were determined to show that we could run as well as pass.”
It was a battle of two title contenders from the Six Rivers Conference and the Ridge and Valley Conference although the showdown lost some of its luster as Highland’s leading ballcarrier and tackler Tyler Kleist was sidelined by an injury, according to coach Shaun Reuter.
The Bulldogs unleashed a high powered offense which was not deterred by two fourth down failures in the first quarter. They amassed 513 yards offensively. They ran 47 times for 325 yards and threw for 188 more yards. Ricco carried 24 times for 192 yards. Koch hit on 10 of 17 passes with one intercepted. And Garret Huffar caught four passes for 87 yards.
The Bulldogs had a 20-10 edge in first downs and limited the Cardinals to 160 yards – 63 rushing on 37 attempts and 97 passing. Bodenstein completed three of eight with one picked off. Yager led Highland rushers with 70 yards on 16 carries.
Highland also lost two fumbles while Ithaca had one.
The Bulldogs dominated the first quarter but could not score. They drove to the Highland six – with two passes to Huffar sparking the drive – but a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
They reached the Highland 31 before fumbling on fourth down early in the second quarter.
Ithaca broke the 0-0 deadlock when Koch tossed a 20-yard scoring pass to Magee with 10:05 left in the second quarter. A run by Ricco and passes to Tyler Behrens and Magee set up the touchdown capping a 65-yard drive. Koch’s pass for the conversion fell incomplete.
After a Highland punt, the Bulldogs went 63 yards in one play for their second touchdown. Ricco streaked down the sideline for the touchdown and Koch threw to Magee for the conversion with 8:00 remaining.
John Robinson’s interception set up the Bulldogs’ third TD of the quarter. Ricco climaxed a 45-yard drive with a nine-yard scoring run. Koch’s kick sailed wide. A pass to Huffar along with a penalty set up the touchdown.
Austin Clary plunged one yard for a touchdown in the third quarter. The kick failed.
He scored again in the fourth quarter and Koch’s kick gave the Bulldogs a 33-0 lead before the Cardinals scored. Bodenstein finished off a drive with a two-yard scoring run, but the conversion failed.
Kepler capped the scoring with a 53-yard run on Ithaca’s next possession, but the conversion failed.
In Ridge and Valley Conference action from Friday night, DeSoto handed Weston its first conference loss, 20-12. Seneca bounced back with a 44-0 win over North Crawford. And Kickapoo/La Farge topped Wauzeka-Steuben, 18-7.
As a result, there’s a logjam atop the standings. Seneca leads with a 3-1 record while Ithaca, Weston, Kickapoo/La Farge, and DeSoto are 2-1 in league play. Wauzeka-Steuben is 1-3 and North Crawford is 0-4.
In action this Friday night, Seneca travels to DeSoto, and North Crawford will play at Kickapoo/La Farge. In non-league action, Belmont will play at Wauzeka-Steuben. Ithaca is slated to host Weston at 2 p.m. on Saturday (although the game may be subject to change).
“It will be important for us to contain (Marcus) McCauley,” said coach Clary. “He does an excellent job running their offense and carrying out his fakes.”
Clary said he was hopeful sophomore lineman Adam Kroning who saw limited action against Highland will be able to play more this week. He also said he was hopeful that back Alex Burke, who was injured early in the game, and lineman John Robinson, who was injured in the fourth quarter, would be able to play.