West Frankfort outslugged Harrisburg in a sloppy penalty-filled SIRR Ohio contest to beat the Bulldogs 40-14 at Taylor Field Friday night.
With the win, the Redbirds remained perfect at 4-0 overall and went to 1-0 in league play and West Frankfort head coach Brian Beery acknowledge the win wasn't pretty.
"We didn't play a pretty game by any means. We have a lot of things we need to clean up, but with that being said, I thought our boys played hard the entire time and played a hard-fought game."
West Frankfort led just 13-0 at halftime and after forcing Harrisburg to go three-and-out on its opening possession of the second half, the Redbirds scored on every possession to close out the night.
Tanner Clark put West Frankfort up 20-7 after he scored from 29 yards out with 8:19 left in the third quarter. That was followed up by a Connor Eaton 61-yard score with 5:45 to play.
Clark then scored his second TD of the night, cashing in from 16 yards out to open the fourth quarter.
Heath Neibch provided the exclamation point for the West Frankfort, finding pay dirt from five yards out.
Clark netted nearly 100 yards on 13 carries for West Frankfort, while Eaton, the dual threat quarterback and focal point of the Harrisburg defense, had 207 all-purpose yards, 130 of which came on the ground. He threw for 31 and had a reception for 46 yards that led to a first half touchdown that put West Frankfort up 13-0 before halftime.
"Eaton is a heck of an athlete and hard to stop," Beery said. "I know teams are going to focus on him, but it's one of the reasons why I run this offense. It's hard to focus on just one guy because someone is going to go big. I thought Clark had a lot of big runs and really helped us there."
Harrisburg, who remains winless at 0-4 and dropped to 0-1 in SIRR Ohio play, got on the scoreboard in the third quarter with 7:32 to play when QB Isaac Crabb hooked up with Easton Wallace for a 68-yard strike, following Lauren McDaniel's extra point, Harrisburg trailed 20-7.
The Bulldogs only other score came compliments of Crabb, who called his own number, to score from 10 yards out with 6:58 in the fourth to make it a 33-14 ballgame.
Harrisburg and head coach Gabe Angelly will look back on a touchdown called back before halftime when Crabb hooked up with Wallace on what would have ben a 27-yard score, but the Bulldogs were flagged for illegal motion and three plays later, Harrisburg turned the ball over on downs.
"In the first half, we should be sitting there at 13-7, but we get a penalty to take away a touchdown. That hurt and we lost a little momentum that we would have had going into halftime and something we talked about, we came out in the third quarter and go three-and-out. You can't do that against good teams.
"Offensively, we never sustained drives enough to keep West Frankfort off the field. Our defense is working overtime and we knew (there) offense was explosive. They could have five freshmen on the front line, but if you have Connor Eaton back there, you are going to be explosive. He is who he is."
Opposite Eaton, Crabb hooked up with six different receivers and went 10-for-25 for 230 yards and one interception.
Easton Wallace, who had 28 yards rushing, caught four balls for 108 yards, while Jacob Penrod had 50 yards on two catches. Zayne Hayes (33 yards), Connor Phalin (19 Yards), Noah Boon (16 yards), and Tyson Satterfield (four yards) all had one catch. Boon also rushed for 44 yards.
After being idle Week 3, Angelly thought his team played better than the first two weeks of the season.
"I know the score was lopsided, but I thought the game was closer than the score showed. I thought our kids played hard and we did some good things offensively. The bad thing for us is we would take two steps forward and then one step back -- all night long. Penalties and missed blocks really came back to bite us. We constantly made mistakes we have talked about getting away from and we just couldn't get into a good rhythm offensively."
West Frankfort will take on the Ohio's only other undefeated team in Benton Saturday, while Harrisburg and Massac County lock up as both teams are looking for their first win of the season.
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.