Gotta be "Fonda" the Tigers
CARUTHERSVILLE -- Something had to give going into Monday night's second-round playoff game between the Caruthersville Tigers (10-2) and Crystal City (7-5) at Hopke Field.
The Hornets came in averaging 46 points per game in its last four contests, while the Tigers' defense had allowed just six points and pitched three straight shutouts during that same span.
The CHS defense bent, but did not break and allowed only a last second score in dominating the visitors 35-6 to advance to the round three Saturday at Brentwood.
Meanwhile, the Tigers got five touchdowns and 278 yards on 30 carries from star running back Vohland Fonda, who continued his impressive run in the playoffs. Fonda has now rushed for 550 yards and eight touchdowns in the two Caruthersville wins.
Caruthersville coach Brad Gerling said he challenged the Tigers to be at their best on every play and they delivered.
"That is what they stepped up and did. I really think they answered that call this week. They came out and battled on every single snap whether it was nothing to nothing at the beginning of the game or 35 to nothing at the end of the game."
Gerling said it is a great way to be playing heading into Saturday's contest against Brentwood, a 10-7 winner over Maplewood Richmond Heights on Monday.
"Brentwood is going to be well disciplined ... and there's a whole lot of athletes in that bunch. They will come right at you," said Gerling.
Crystal City controlled the field position early in the contest, but the Tigers' defense, spearheaded by Lyndon Hunt and Seth Littrell, kept the visitor at bay until the offense could get rolling.
That happened on the third possession of the night for the Tigers, who took over on their own 15 after forcing the Hornets to punt.
With the Hornets stopping the run, the Tigers went to the air with quarterback Perry Middleton, who was making his second straight start for suspended David Shaw.
Middleton hit speedy Peter Lloyd for gains of 15 and 35 yards and after two runs by Antonio Hopkins out of the "Wild Tiger" set netted 18 yards, Fonda took it in from 22 yards out at the 1:11 mark to make it 6-0. Jeffery Massengale, who was a perfect 5-for-5 on the night, added the PAT to make it 7-0.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Tigers' Jamar Oliver picked off a short pass attempt to give Caruthersville possession at the 38 of Crystal City, but the visitors held.
The Tigers, however, were now on top of the field position battle and took over on their next possession at the visitors' 46-yard line.
Middleton found Lloyd for a 29-yard hookup on third-and-12, with Lloyd making a circus catch to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, Fonda made it 14-0 with a nine-yard run with 2:41 left in the half.
Chris Smith gave the Tigers another opportunity to score before intermission with an interception return of 20 yards to the Crystal City 32.
The Tigers got a first down and goal from inside the one yard line when Smith hauled in a 28-yard reception from Middleton, but were unable to punch it in on two running plays to Fonda before Middleton was picked off in the end zone.
Dustin Starks saved a touchdown on the play by running down the Crystal City player at the Caruthersville 31 with about three seconds left.
The second half was all Tigers as they took control on both sides of the football as their superior conditioning began to wear down the Hornets.
A late hit by Crystal City on Fonda set up the Tigers' third score. Fonda then took it from midfield to the house with 5:33 left in the third quarter to make it 21-0.
Fonda added a 12-yard TD run with 3:06 left in the third quarter to make it 28-0 and the Tigers invoked the mercy clock on an opponent for the second week in a row when Fonda broke a 94-yard touchdown run with under 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
Coach Gerling emptied his bench in the final quarter and Crystal City quarterback Neal Slavvey scored from 11 yards out on fourth-and-goal with just under a second left on the clock.
The Tigers dominated the statistics, rushing 40 times for 261 yards. Middleton was 8-of-16 passing for 118 yards with two interceptions. Lloyd had four catches for 78 yards, while Lennon Smith had one grab for 12 yards and Smith had one catch for 28 yards.
The Tigers had 379 total yards of offense while racking up 14 first downs but were flagged 13 times for 105 yards.
The Caruthersville defense forced four turnovers, with Kevin Hopkins having two picks, Chris Smith one and Naval Johnson recovering a fumble.
Crystal City was 18-of-38 passing for 118 yards and three picks and rushed 26 times for 99 yards. The visitors had 13 first downs and were flagged 10 times for 82 yards.