MARENGO – It’s hard to stop a train.
Dane Nauman looked like nothing could derail him as he rushed for 308 yards and four touchdowns Friday. The senior, nicknamed “The Dane Train,” led his Highland Scots to their first 3-0 start in 16 years as they steamed past the visiting Crestview Cougars, 50-26.
Nauman had 158 of those yards in the fourth quarter, when he appeared to be unstoppable. He rolled to three touchdowns in the period on just five carries, racing past Cougar defenders who looked exhausted and defeated.
His first score came on Highland’s second drive of the game – a 27-yard run in which he broke three tackles.
The show Nauman put on drowned out the job he did on defense, in which he had seven tackles including a strip-sack that led to a turnover.
“A lot of people don’t talk about him (Nauman) on defense,” Highland head coach Ty Stover said. “Last week against Triway, he was everywhere.
“This week, we put him on the line of scrimmage, sometimes he’s off… we get him in spaces where he can make plays.”
The Highland defense dictated the game in the first half. Crestview managed just 43 total yards in the first two periods of the game, turning the ball over in each of its first three drives. The Scots converted those turnovers into seven points, but seized momentum that carried them to a 24-0 halftime lead.
Crestview, however, did not go away. Led on the ground by Clete Rogers, the Cougars drove 81 yards to earn their first score. Set up by a 62-yard gain on a pass from Liam Kuhn to Wade Bolin, Crestview scored on a four-yard pass from Kuhn to Karter Goon.
That’s when Sam Hernandez made his biggest impact of the game. Hernandez, who had already earned several key tackles and a fumble recovery – and would later intercept a pass to clinch the victory – took the kickoff 68 yards for the score.
“I just waited for my teammates to make their blocks,” Hernandez said. “I was patient. Then I went in.”
“Sam did a great job running downhill,” Stover said. “He’s put in extra time to get where he is now. He works with a group that puts in overtime. Everything for him is karma. He deserves it for the hard work he puts in.”
“It’s all paying off,” Hernandez said. “We work on speed, we do drills… it got us ready, and kept our focus on.”
Hernandez’s big play kept Highland’s big lead going, but Crestview’s never-say-die attitude had Stover nervous.
“In the second half, we kind of relaxed a bit,” Stover said. “That’s not typical of our defense. We don’t like to give up (26) points on defense around here. So we’ll try to get that straightened around.”
Following a 24-yard field goal by Malin Fichtner in the second quarter, Highland (3-0) forced a three-and-out. Hayden Kline took the punt and ran 70 yards to paydirt.
Highland scored on its next drive when Kolton Stover threw to Kadyn Reichenbach on a perfect post pattern. Reichenback took it the remainder of way for a 53-yard touchdown and a 24-0 lead.
Brice Perkins kept Crestview (1-2) in the game when he intercepted a Stover pass and ran 36 yards for a touchdown and narrow the gap, 30-14.
Kuhn connected with Goon again – this time from 42 yards in the fourth quarter – to keep the Cougars within striking distance. Kuhn would later add a 10-yard scramble for his team’s final score of the game.
But Crestview never gained any ground on the scoreboard, because those scores were intertwined with Nauman’s fourth-quarter touchdown runs.
Kuhn passed for 136 yards on eight completions out of 17 attempts. Goon caught all but one of those passes.
Stover went 6-for-15 for 110 yards.
Nauman currently has 601 rushing yards on the season and is on pace for his third straight 2,000-yard year. Last season, Nauman rushed for 2,380 yards and was named Division V Central District Player of the Year.
The Scots begin MOAC play next Friday with a game at Pleasant. Crestview begins Firelands Conference play at home against Monroeville.
Highland last went 3-0 in 2007, when the team finished 9-2 and earned a Division IV playoff spot.