Apparently, Cardinals do just fine in the rain.


Apparently, Cardinals do just fine in the rain.
Having to dodge raindrops as well as Mark Twain defenders, the South Shelby Cardinals captured the Class 2 District 7 Championship on Thursday with a 29-6 win. Rain fell from the opening kickoff to the end of the game with a few, albeit brief, breaks. With the field soaked and puddles splashing with every step, the game turned into a grind-it-out field position battle. South Shelby didn’t seem to mind.
In the first half, South Shelby kept Mark Twain from making a first down and had the Tigers pinned deep on every drive. Mark Twain never made it past midfield.
“They got us in bad position in the first half, and we absolutely could not get out of it,” Mark Twain head coach Matt Hudson said. “It just seemed like they pinned us, and they kept us pinned. Field position, especially on a night like tonight, is huge, and they ruled it.”
South Shelby played an aggressive defensive game that attacked the Mark Twain backfield. The Cards broke through the Mark Twain offensive line time and time again and shut down the Tigers’ usually potent running attack.
“They were aggressive with their linebackers and their defensive,” Hudson said. “Sometimes that can work against you, but it worked for them.”
When South Shelby had the ball, things were a bit different. The Cardinals used all four downs to inch the ball down field yard-by-yard. Three times in the first half South Shelby converted on fourth down, twice on the same drive. The running attack produced three first half touchdowns.
It took until the 3:33 mark in the first quarter before the scoreboard stopped reading zeroes. From nine yards out, Stefan Andress carried the ball to his right and somehow managed to make a cut on the soggy playing surface toward the end zone and past the sliding Tiger defense. It wasn’t long until South Shelby struck again. On its first play of the ensuing possession, the Tigers fumbled away a pitch giving the Cardinals the deep inside its own territory. With 2:29 showing on the clock, the Cardinals quarterback Alex O’Laughlin got a grip on the wet football and hit Jason Weaver for a 22-yard score to go up 13-0.
While Mark Twain struggled to get things going and even put together a scoring drive, South Shelby continued to apply the pressure. Seven minutes into the second quarter, Shannon Hall scored on a five-yard run. After a two-point conversion, South Shelby was up 21-0.
Later in the quarter, it was time for an offensive lineman to join in on the scoring fun. In close to the goal, South Shelby plowed the ball up the middle but it popped loose and sat in the end zone wanting for someone to pounce. Ethan Decker saw the ball and dove on it for a score. After another two-pointer, South Shelby led 29-0 at the half.
And then, the lightning came. As the teams were in the locker room the rain and lightning fell on South Shelby’s field sending fans scattering for cover. State rules say that officials must wait 30 minutes after a lightning strike to resume play. Half time became break time.
Things were different after the half-hour-plus delay. Mark Twain came out looking like a different team.
“Our kids refused to stop fighting,” Hudson said.
The Tigers were able to move the ball and pick up a first down, but still couldn’t find the end zone. Late in the third, Mark Twain finally broke through, thanks to its special teams. Russell Loutzenhiser blocked a punt and helped the Tigers get their best field position of the night. Later in the third, Mark Twain went to the air and, for the third straight game, it resulted in a touchdown. Quarterback Skyler Jameson found Austin Leake once again in the end zone for the score. After a failed two-point attempt, the score was 29-6. Despite both team’s efforts, that was how it would remain at the end of the game.
Mark Twain (6-4) will head to Clark County on Wednesday for the first round of sectional action after the Indians were able to beat Brookfield 8-6. Brookfield will head to South Shelby to take on the District champion Cardinals.
“The kids were disappointed — any time you lose a championship game you’re disappointed, heck, I’m disappointed as a coach,” Hudson said. “But, the sting wears off pretty quick when you know that you have a chance to come out and compete and win Wednesday night.”