BASCOM - It wasn't a matter of overwhelming confidence that had Hopewell-Loudon kicking the ball away to start each half against Elmwood here Friday night.
It wasn't even a matter of strategy.
But the results - a couple of quick three-and-outs that eventually led to Chieftain scores - were impressive as Hopewell-Loudon laid a 32-8 whipping on the Royals.
"Yes, that was an error," Chieftain coach Jeremy Nutter said regarding a coin-flip confusion that ended with his team choosing to kick to start the game, leaving the Royals with the option of receiving for the second half.
"I'd love to say we were so confident that we put (the defense) out there twice, but no, that was a bit of flub," Nutter said.
There were other flubs - three fumbles, one of which was lost, and nine penalties for 80 yards.
But those were far outweighed by a defense that gave up a 78-yard touchdown, but otherwise allowed just 73 yards and produced two turnovers.
That was the perfect complement for an outstanding offensive night for senior running back Cody Malone, who carried 29 times for 167 yards and scored four touchdowns, as the Chieftains evened their record at 1-1.
Malone's 35-yard run helped the Chieftains get to the Royal 4 after that initial stop. But they couldn't get in the end zone. At least not yet, as a fumbled snap was recovered by Elmwood's Justin Krouse at the 6.
But the Royals were in trouble as Matt Huth and Ryan Lommerse had tackles for losses to set up a third-down safety scored when LRay Burns dropped quarterback Nick Gillett in the end zone with 7:07 left in the first period.
The free kick then led to a 45-yard scoring drive. Derek Runion passed to Eli Tooker for 18 yards and Logan Tyree for 12 to set up Malone's 5-yard scoring run for a 9-0 lead.
It became a 16-0 halftime lead when backup quarterback Austin Tooker keyed a 45-yard scoring drive by hitting Tyree for 15 yards on a fourth-and-8 play. Malone cruised in from the 14 on the next snap.
Elmwood's opening possession of the second half was no more productive than the first. It resulted in a punt and the Chieftains answered with a 57-yard scoring drive with Malone's 10-yard burst up the middle as the clincher.
Last week, H-L led Leipsic 6-0 at the half but watched the Vikings come up big in the second half in rallying for a 33-20 win. There was no such turnaround this time.
"I'm proud of the way they came out. I thought they controlled the second half as well," Nutter said. "The running game, the offensive line, we got behind them. Number 70, (senior tackle) Weston Hill, when we get behind him and we run the ball, the pile moves. Cody had a great night, obviously, too."
Second-year coach Brian Cooper said the 0-2 Royals have an uphill climb.
"There's no secret about it; we're a mentally weak team," he said. "We're trying to battle everything. We know we're thin at positions, but we're very quick to hang our heads and we've got to find a way to motivate ourselves one-on-one and get the job done."
Down 23-0, the Royals found a brief spark when Austin Isaacs broke loose for a 78-yard touchdown with 3:36 left in the third period. But the Royal offense could generate little more.
Malone's 1-yard touchdown smash on the first play of the fourth quarter and Adam Bour's 25-yard field goal closed the scoring.
Hopewell-Loudon piled up 17 first downs to just five for Elmwood and had a 222-yard edge in total offense.
"What a great performance from our defense tonight," Nutter said. "We were all over them all night long. I just told the boys I can't remember seeing a football team hit like that defensively. I thought we brought the game to them.
"Sometimes when you're up against the wall (with an 0-1 start), you've got one choice - you've got to throw the first punch," he said. "Our guys came out and did what they had to do."