KANSAS - If he could have thrown a flag on himself, Hopewell-Loudon coach Jeremy Nutter probably should and would have.
The penalty would have been unnecessary anger on what was the biggest play of a night filled with big ones.
And the Chieftains had the upper hand in that regard in rolling to a 47-28 Midland Athletic League win over Lakota here Friday night.
Hopewell-Loudon led 20-6 midway through the second quarter, but the Raiders had driven 41 yards to the Chieftain 18, where they faced a third-and-10.
Quarterback Colin Timmons threw a pass toward the end zone, but Eli Tooker stepped in front and intercepted at the 2. He worked his way through traffic to his left sideline and then raced 98 yards for a touchdown on what is believed to be the longest interception return in H-L history.
There was a penalty flag thrown at about the Chieftain 35 and Nutter shot a laser gaze at his top lineman, Weston Hill, the only Hopewell-Loudon player in the vicinity.
"Was that on you?" Nutter screamed. And he wasn't at all convinced when Hill denied any wrongdoing. As it turned out, the penalty was on a Raider player and the long touchdown return stood.
"I saw the flag come out and I always tell them on a long play like that, when you're behind the ball, if you get a penalty, you're going to hear about it," Nutter said with a sheepish grin. "I thought that's what happened. Luckily for him, that was not the case."
The two-score flip produced by Tooker's big play pushed Hopewell-Loudon's lead to 27-6 when the margin might well have been trimmed to a single touchdown.
The foundation was laid right there for the Chieftains' fourth straight win against one loss. They are 2-0 in league play while dropping Lakota to 3-2 and 0-2.
"That was a heck of a play by Eli Tooker," Nutter said. "He's an athletic kid and he found himself in the right spot. That was a huge play for us.
"Really, without those turnovers, they were moving the ball and we're probably not keeping them off the board."
Hopewell-Loudon owned the 20-6 edge going in, thanks in part to another turnover as a muffed punt was recovered by Braden Park on the Raider 29.
That set up a 16-yard scoring run for Cody Malone, one of two scores for the senior back. His other touchdown was on a 2-yard run with 2:13 to go in the first period.
The MAL's leading rushing coming into the game, Malone had a pedestrian night by his standards with 85 yards on 23 carries.
Several others picked up the slack, especially quarterback Derek Runion. The Chieftain junior hit 8-of-17 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 73 yards, including a 33-yard score.
"He didn't just become a high school quarterback tonight. I feel like he became a real good high school quarterback tonight," Nutter said. "With that kind of play from Derek Runion, that's pretty tough to stop."
Jordan Stewart, who provided a third turnover for the winners with a fourth-quarter interception, was the top receiver with three catches for 147 yards. His 79-yard TD grab opened the scoring and his 56-yard catch and run set up one of the Malone scores.
"We gave up some things but we've got some very young kids in there," Raider coach Dave Vodika said. "Much of the game, there were two freshmen cornerbacks. Welcome to the bigs.
"But I'll got the distance with those two," he said of Dakota Bowling and Madison Jaso. "They're going to be players some day."
Tooker had touchdown catches of 28 and 26 yards in the fourth quarter to go with his record pick. And the Chieftains needed them to keep the Raiders at a distance. Lakota outscored H-L 22-20 in the second half.
Colin Timmons completed 14 of 29 passes for 153 yards, including touchdowns of 17 yards to Josh Kirkpatrick and 34 yards to Jack Raymond. He also ran 2 yards for a score.
Madison Jason tossed a 20-yard TD pass to Bowling and junior Jordan Jaso ran for 114 yards on 17 carries.
"We've got good kids. They're fighters," Vodika said. "It's a shame we wasted a good effort tonight with some of the mistakes we made.
"In my time here, we're still looking for that signature win against somebody good, somebody with tradition like they have."