MEADOW BRIDGE — For all the talk about the Midland Trail passing game coming into the Patriots’ game with rival Meadow Bridge Friday night, the defense and the running game seemingly stole the show in a 31-8 win at Frank Arritt Stadium.

Midland Trail's William McGraw and River Barnhouse combined for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.

But it was the defense, and specifically three straight plays near the end of the first half, that really told the tale.

After Meadow Bridge freshman Trip Roles intercepted a pass — one of his five takeaways on the night — and returned it inside the red zone, the Midland Trail defense, specifically Zane Burford, responded with three straight sacks. Burford was in on all three.

“We knew when they lined up in single wing, we were playing assignment football and our kids did a good job playing sound assignment football (on that series),” Midland Trail coach Jeremy Moore said. “Zane Burford, linebacker River Barnhouse, William McGraw, they did a great job making sure everybody was lined up correctly. We weren’t lined up incorrectly and that is why we were able to have success.”

A drive that started inside the 20 ended up back at midfield. With a scoring threat averted, the Patriots were able to take a 17-0 lead into the half.

“We came into the game not wanting them to score and Zane Burford understood what his job was and that was to shoot his gaps and take over the defense and that was what he did on that drive,” said Cody Harrell, who had 167 yards receiving, a touchdown and an interception.

“I felt like we had something going (after Roles’ interception) and I came back with a pass to Roles that we had hit earlier (for 32 yards),” Meadow Bridge coach Dwayne Reichard said. “They sent a little different pressure package than we had seen and we got a little greedy and called a couple more pass plays because we got behind the sticks. Fact of the matter is we were trying to put the ball in the end zone and get this thing a little tighter than it was, but they did a good job getting to our quarterback.”

Defense and special teams gave Trail the lead early. Harrell intercepted a pass and that led to McGraw scoring on a 3-yard run at the 6:07 mark of the first quarter.

In the second quarter it was two special teams plays, both on punts. The first came on a muffed snap on a Meadow Bridge punt and T.C. Perry brought down punter Brycen Sawyers at about the 20-yard line. That led to a Talon Shockey 30-yard field goal. The second was on a punt when a Meadow Bridge blocker was pushed into Sawyers and the ball deflected off his teammate. Barnhouse scored on a 4-yard run to make it 17-0.

“We were struggling on offense, so we needed that badly,” Moore said. “Our defense played lights out. When the offense is struggling it’s kind of nice when special teams come along and gives you a boost.”

“Any time you play a quality opponent, and you make those kinds of mistakes you’re playing from behind,” Reichard said. “The interception that set up the first score was big, it tears you down mentally and it changes the way I’m going to call the game. On the two punts we gave them a short field that just didn’t benefit us whatsoever. “

Amassing 197 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, Midland Trail has seemingly gone back to the past and resurrected the run game.

“We kind of chucked the ball around the first couple of games and we finally just made a point to run the ball,” Moore said. “We’ve got two freshmen up there and a junior who hasn’t played football since his eighth-grade year so it’s going to take a little bit. I’ve got to learn patience. I’m not very patient. They did a great job in the second half. I’m proud of them.”

That said, Jaden Gladwell, a Meadow Bridge transfer, threw for 206 yards, his third straight 200-yard passing game, and a touchdown. The last one went to Harrell for 47 yards late.

Conner Mullins had the touchdown run for Meadow Bridge, and Trail's McGraw had a second rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

For Meadow Bridge, Roles had a huge night, with five takeaways (three interceptions and two fumble recoveries).

“He’s a freshman and we have asked him to do a lot of things,” Reichard said. “He’s a blocking back part of the time and a receiver part of the time. On defense we started him at defensive end and we moved him to cornerback. Coach (Charles) Redden told him out on the field, ‘We jerk you up and throw you at corner and you end up with three interceptions, that’s a pretty good night.”’

Meadow Bridge (1-2) hosts James Monroe Friday, while Trail (2-1) entertains Richwood.

MT   7   10   7   7 - 31

MB   0    0    0   8 -  8

First quarter

MT – William McGraw 3 run (Talon Shockey kick), 6:07

Second quarter

MT – Shockey 30 field goal, 10:14

MT – River Barnhouse 4 run (Shockey kick), 5:28

Third quarter

MT – McGraw 7 run (Shockey kick), 4:03

Fourth quarter

MB – Conner Mullins, 51 run (Seaton Mullins run), 2:49

MT – Cody Harrell 47 pass from Jaden Gladwell (Shockey kick), 1:55

Individual stats

RUSHING – MT: River Barnhouse 10-70-1, William McGraw 13-159-2, Cade Ooten 1-(minus-1), Cody Harrell 1-3, Jaden Gladwell 1-0, Kaden Lephew 2-1, Nathan Hanshew 1-0. MB: Kaiden Sims 10-15, Seaton Mullins 21-29, Conner Mullins 7-82-1, Brycen Sawyers 2- (minus-19), Trip Roles 2-8, Team 1-(minus-10).

PASSING – MT: Gladwell 11-23-3-206-1, MB: S. Mullins 2-8-1-42-0

RECEIVING – MT: Harrell 7-167, Zane Burford 3-32, Landon Syner 1-7. MB: Trip Roles 1-32, Sawyers 1-10.

TURNOVERS –MT: Cody Harrell FR, MB: Trip Roles 3 INT, 2FR

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