COMMERCE - When preparation in athletics turns into execution, it can be a beautiful sight to behold.
Just ask Commerce head football coach Willie Ng after his Tigers dismantled the Salina Wildcats 56-0 Thursday night at Tiger Field.
While extending their scoreless quarter streak to 20 straight and 26 out of 28, the Tigers remained undefeated at 7-0 on the season and 6-0 in District A-7.
Salina stands 6-1 on the season and 5-1 in the district.
“Shutting out people isn't just something that happens,” Ng said. “We exchange films and our coaching staff breaks it down into a scouting report.
“We give the kids the report on Monday,” Ng said. “They study it and we practice it all week and they turn it back in before the game.
“This was a testament to our kids' preparation throughout the week,” Ng said. “It's one thing for them to learn something, but when they execute it like they did tonight, it makes all the work worthwhile.”
Taking the opening kickoff, the Tigers drove 70 yards in eight plays for the first of eight touchdowns.
On the initial play of the drive sophomore running back Bryson Sullivan shocked the Wildcats with a 37-yard run.
Tailback Josh Pilkinton culminated the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 9:50 left in the first quarter. The conversion run failed as the Tigers grabbed a 6-0 lead.
With just five seconds left in the first quarter, Sullivan electrified the standing-room only crowd with a 52-yard punt return for a TD.
Quarterback Joey Bowling scored the two-point conversion run for a 14-0 Commerce lead.
“We were able to get our running game untracked tonight,” Ng said. “We weren't concerned about it, but we took advantage of the things Salina gave us.
“Our offensive line stepped up and did a good job,” Ng said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage and gave us lanes to run in.”
Commerce senior defensive end Travis Eads blocked a punt by Salina's Brickey to give the Tigers the ball at the Wildcats 24-yard line.
After four runs for 23 yards by Pilkinton, Sullivan scored the second of four touchdowns on a 1-yard TD plunge.
Zach Barnes kicked the extra point to extend the Tigers' lead to 21-0 with 9:09 left until halftime.
Junior defensive back Ryan Nowlin thwarted a Salina scoring drive by intercepting a Brickey pass at the Commerce 5-yard line and returning it 71 yards.
A facemask penalty tacked on after Nowlin's return gave the Tigers the ball at the Salina 12-yard line.
Following two short runs, Bowling burst up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown run with 5:44 until halftime.
The PAT by Barnes gave Commerce a 28-0 cushion heading into the locker room.
“Our defense gave us a short field most of the night,” Ng said. “We've preached, and preached and preached, that the team that made the fewest mistakes would win and we created seven turnovers.”
Another defensive gem by Commerce started the third quarter as defensive back Mikey Morgan returned an interception 27 yards to the Salina 31-yard line.
Following a run of 16 yards by Pilkinton, Sullivan scored on an 11-yard scamper with 9:47 left in the third quarter. Barnes kicked the point-after for a 35-0 Tiger lead.
With 2:44 left in the third quarter, senior defensive back Luke Manning pilfered another errant Brickey pass and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown. Barnes' PAT increased the lead to 42-0 entering the final 12 minutes.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Sullivan scored on a 56-yard run to end an 81-yard drive on the third play. The extra point by Barnes with 6:41 left on the clock gave Commerce a 49-0 advantage.
Nowlin recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to set the Tigers up at Salina's 26-yard run.
Sophomore quarterback Kasey Ng replaced Bowling and received a 20-yard run by Nowlin and a 5-yard burst from Braden Smith.
Ng ended the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:47 left in the game. Barnes kicked the point-after for the final score.
Even though the Tigers generated 347 yards in total offense, 334 of those yards came on the ground. Sullivan rushed for 125 yards on eight carries while Pilkinton added 116 yards on 10 carries.
“We've got to shore up our pass protection to get our passing game untracked,” Ng said. “Then, we have to make the right reads and get the ball to our receivers.”
Bowling was limited to only 4 of 13 passes for 13 total yards and two interceptions.
Salina was limited to 185 total yards on offense. Brickey led the Wildcats with 39 yards on 12 carries while Brock Crawford contributed 37 yards on 19 carries.
The game in figures
Commerce 56, Salina 0
Salina 0 0 0 0 - 9
Commerce 14 14 14 14 - 56
Com - Pilkinton 2 run (run failed), 9:50
Com - Sullivan 52 punt return (Bowling run), 0:05
Com - Sullivan 1 run (Barnes kick), 9:09
Com - Bowling 9 run (Barnes kick), 5:44
Com - Sullivan 11 run (Barnes kick), 9:47
Com - Manning 62 interception return (Barnes kick), 2:44
Com - Sullivan 56 run (Barnes kick), 6:41
Com - Ng 1 run (Barnes kick), 5:47
First downs 16 13
Rushes-yards 53-127 38-334
Passing yards 58 13
Return yards 15 240
Passes-com-att-int 9-22-4 4-13-2
Punts-avg 5-28.4 1-50
Fumbles-lost 4-3 3-1
Penalties-yards 2-30 11-100
Rushing - Salina, Brickey 12-39, Crawford 19-37, Pettit 14-32, Adams 2-13, Haley 3-10, Sorum 1-1, Bales 2-(-5). Commerce, Sullivan 8-125, Pilkinton 10-116, Bowling 14-77, Nowlin 2-20, Smith 1-5, Ng 1-1, Barnes 2-(-10).
Passing - Salina, Brickey 9-22-4-58. Commerce, Bowling 4-13-2-13.
Receiving - Salina, Manchell 6-44, Crawford 1-8, Daniels 1-5, Hibbs 1-1. Commerce, Barnes 3-14, Pilkinton 1-(-1).