Trimble ground game helps Tomcats surge past Southern
By By Cam Robertson Special to the Messenger,2023-09-23
GLOUSTER — Sometimes in athletics, it’s just going to be your night.
That sentiment couldn’t have been more true for Trimble senior Xavier Cunningham on Friday night, as he and the Tomcats notched their first Tri-Valley Conference Hocking-Division victory over the Southern Tornadoes.
On the very same night he was crowned homecoming king, Cunningham made his coronation two-fold as he became the king of a Tomcat rushing attack that ran all over Southern’s defense.
Trimble (3-2, 1-0 TVC-Hocking) and the newly crowned king saw their offense tally 497 yards on the ground as they stormed past Southern (1-5, 0-1 TVC-Hocking) en route to a 59-19 win.
Friday’s game saw a fast-paced start to the action, with both Trimble and Southern scoring on their first two drives respectively. Southern saw a rushing touchdown from junior Carson Reuter and a receiving touchdown from senior Derek Griffith, while Trimble’s both came via the ground game.
Cunningham scored both for the Tomcats in the first, with an eight-yard touchdown on the first drive before a massive 51-yarder for his second of the night with just under two minutes left in the quarter. He also added a pair of two-point conversions to give the Tomcats a 16-13 advantage through one.
While the Tornadoes offense stalled in the following quarter, the Tomcats offense flourished as it saw more of the same from Cunningham. He added another pair of scores in the second, with a 55-yard scamper on the Tomcats first play of the second quarter before adding a one-yard run on the ensuing drive.
He didn’t get to have all the fun, however, as Tomcat senior quarterback Brandon Burdette joined the party with a one-yard touchdown himself just before halftime. Cunningham added a trio of two-point conversions throughout the quarter, and the Tomcats took a 40-13 lead into the half.
“[Cunningham] doesn’t weigh very much, but he gives you everything he’s got every play,” said Tomcat head coach Phil Faires postgame. “We’ve got six different backs that I’m comfortable putting in there, no matter who we put in can do good…this night it was Xavier’s turn.”
It was a first half of dreams for Cunningham, who accounted for 179 yards and four touchdowns on just 13 carries. Add in the five two-point conversions, and the senior was responsible for 34 of the 40 Tomcat points in the first 24 minutes.
As a team, the Tomcats accumulated 330 yards of offense in the half, all of which came on the ground as they did not attempt a single pass in the first two quarters.
The third quarter saw the Trimble offense slow things down a bit, but they still added a touchdown off a scramble from Burdette to push the lead to 46-13 and kick start a running clock.
Southern struck back with a touchdown rush from quarterback Josiah Smith, but that was all the Tornadoes could muster in the second half as the Tomcat defense tightened up once again to close out the game.
“We started putting a little pressure on them, make [Smith] throw it a little quicker,” said Faires when discussing defensive adjustments. “You got a good quarterback there, and they took advantage early.”
Cunningham tacked on his fifth touchdown of the night on the final offensive play of the quarter, this time on a 47-yard run up the middle through the heart of the Tornado defense to help the Tomcats eclipse the 50-point mark.
With the running clock in effect, the Tomcats added just one more touchdown in the fourth quarter off yet another big touchdown run, this time a 37-yard run from sophomore Trevor Gowen to punctuate the victory and the 59-19 final score.
All in all, Trimble tallied almost 500 yards of offense on the ground, with Cunningham leading the charge. The homecoming king took 16 carries for 229 yards, adding five touchdowns as well as five two-point conversions. Burdette added 93 yards of his own, as well as two scores.
Friday’s victory begins a Tomcat win streak, with back-to-back wins over Woodward and now Southern. After a tough five-week stretch, Faires and the Tomcats are looking forward to conference play and an eventual showdown with Eastern.
“We got through the first five games, we knew they’d all be dogfights,” said Faires following the game. “Homecoming tonight, our next home game will be senior night…that’ll be a big game with Eastern. We’re expecting them to come in undefeated…if we win, we’ve got the right away to the league championship.”
In order for those league championship dreams to become a reality, the Tomcats will have to best a three-game stretch that includes that home matchup with Eastern, as well as away dates with both Belpre and Waterford.
The Tomcats first of those three contests will be on the road next Friday, September 29 as they travel to Belpre to take on the Golden Eagles.