Because Mexico varsity football head coach Steve Haag and staff have an offensive attack predicated on hard-nose runs between the offensive lineman, big plays simply aren't its bread and butter.
Against Marshall at home on Friday in their North Central Missouri Conference opener the Bulldogs defied conventional logic and passed the ball downfield like it's something they've always done, leading the squad to a 55-14 victory.
"We got off to a fast start because we didn't make any mistakes. That was a big thing. I would have liked to have moved the ball a little bit better on the first series. I think we were just figuring things out," said Haag. "That's just part of it. We also had to worry about what they were going to do defensively and how we were going to block it. Once we tweaked a few things, we were off to the races."
The highlights began for Mexico at 1:07 of the first quarter when quarterback John Grubb connected with wide receiver Matthew Huffman down the right sideline for 52-yard connection that gave the team a 7-0 lead. Soon after the Bulldogs forced Marshall to punt on fourth down and eight at 10:51 of the second, and when Cameron Holman first put his hand on the ball and started darting through traffic at his own 20, only he knew the end result would be an 80-yard scoring return to make it a 13-0 game.
"I haven't seen the final yardage, but I'm sure Matt Huffman had over 100 yards receiving tonight. He also had two touchdowns and played really good defensively," Haag said. "He's getting better every week, and that's what you want. We knew he had some skills last year and since then he's gotten bigger and stringer in the weight room, so this might have been his coming out party this year."
What happened next came exactly 90 seconds later when Mexico stopped the Owls on fourth down and nine at its own 44-yard line. Sensing the opportunity, Grubb went deep once again, this time hooking up with Holman for a 56-yard touchdown that widened the gap to 20-0 at 9:21.
"Jon Grubb has always thrown the ball well. Number one we gave him time, but to throw the ball, but he read the right coverages," said Haag. "He was throwing through the deep route to the corner set because they thought we were running the option and the safeties were coming down. Those are some of the things we saw on the first series that we knew would open up, and they did and they worked out. He put those passes on the money and Matthew Huffman made the catch. Cameron Holman also had a big reception, as did Keyon Mahaney. It was good to be able to spread it out."
Several changes of possession later and Marshall had the ball on the 50-yard line at 7:20. Following the mood of the evening, the Owls managed to chart an 85-yard touchdown catch by Connor Schulte just one play later to cut the advantage to 20-7. The exchange continued at 6:00 when Grubb hit Huffman with a 79-yard scoring pass that once again made it a 20-point game in the Bulldogs favor that then became a 34-7 lead when Grubb capped off another drive with a one-yard scoring burst at 1:48.
Because Grubb intercepted the ball at the Marshall 44 yard line with 46 seconds left in the first half, Holman followed that up by running the ball to the two-yard line just seven seconds later. When Jasean White charted the next score for the Bulldogs, that put them ahead 41-7.
"Our defense has played great the last two weeks. We got some good athletes. We've also got some guys who are coming around and like to hit," Haag said. "Up front we're playing well and I think we put pressure on a lot of people. Before that last drive I think they had 20 yards of offense. When you hold people to numbers like that, you're going to win some football games."
The second half simply proved to be more of the same as Mexico opened the third with Holman returning the opening kickoff 80 yards to the endzone. The squad even stretched that margin from 48-7 to 55-7 at 7:21 when Avion Williams recovered a fumble by Grubb on third down and goal from the one-yard line, which proved to be the Bulldogs final score of the evening when their field goal attempt on the final play of the third fell just short.
Mexico, 2-1 overall, 1-0 NCMC, is at Hannibal on Friday for another league game.