The second half belonged to Trey Brunelle and the Shiloh Christian Skyhawks.
At halftime, Brunelle had 20 yards rushing on five carries, and Richardton-Taylor-Hebron led the Skyhawks 14-13.
By the time the final whistle sounded, Brunelle had piled up 170 yards and three touchdowns. And the Skyhawks closed out their third consecutive victory to open the season with 26 unanswered points and a 39-14 triumph over the Raiders.
“At halftime we were just telling everyone to get back up, get out of your own heads,” Brunelle said. “The first half, we weren’t playing like we usually play. Just like we talk about in practice, go to the whistle and don’t give up and that’s what we did.”
Coming out of the locker room down by a point, the Skyhawks went to the ground game.
Shiloh scored on its first four possessions of the second half, grinding out yards on the ground. Brunelle was the workhorse, rushing for 150 yards in the second half and scoring to cap each of the first three second-half possessions.
“All the credit goes to the offensive line – they’re working hard out there and they just keep on improving,” Brunelle said. “They’re going to be great by the end of the year.”
Shiloh drove 73 yards in nine plays on the opening drive of the third, capped by a Brunelle 6-yard TD run to give the Skyhawks a 21-14 lead.
Then it was the defense’s turn to step up. Evan Baker stuffed Britton Paulson – who had rushed for 43 yards on seven carries in the first half – for a 10-yard loss on Richardton-Taylor-Hebron’s first offensive play, and the Skyhawks forced a quick three and out.
“That was like our first big momentum play of the game,” Brunelle said.
On Shiloh’s next drive, the Skyhawks marched 69 yards in 11 plays – all but one on the ground – and capped it with a 3-yard Brunelle TD run to make it 27-14.
Sticking with the ground game was the game plan.
“That was our plan,” Brunelle said. “It’s just what we kept doing and the offensive line kept opening up holes for our running backs.”
While the Skyhawks were clicking on offense, the defense was stymieing the Raiders at every turn. RTH managed minus-13 yards total offense and one first down on their two third-quarter possessions.
The difference in the second half was simple.
“Execution, and in the first half we didn’t tackle all that well,” Brunelle said.
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Brunelle scored from 33 yards out on the opening play of the fourth quarter to make it 33-14.
Minutes later, Cole Walth broke a tackle, found a seam along the sideline, eluded a tackler with a spin move and sprinted 78 yards for a TD and a 39-14 lead with 10:14 remaining. It was the Skyhawks’ fourth TD in as many second-half possessions.
Shiloh Christian piled up 389 yards on 51 carries in the game. Along with Brunelle’s 170 yards, Walt also went over the century mark with 121 yards on eight carries.
The ground game was working so well, the Skyhawks didn’t need to go to the air. Jaden Mitzel completed his only pass of the second half for a 4-yard gain. He finished 3-for-6 for 41 yards and an interception.
RTH quarterback Zayden Schmalenberger completed 16 of 30 passes for 213 yards but the Skyhawks picked him off three times – two by Josh Kolling and one by Kyler Klein.
Owen Voigt caught 12 passes for 149 yards for the Raiders.
Shiloh’s defense limited RTH to 15 yards rushing on 18 carries – including a minus-27 yards in the second half.
With the win, Shiloh improved to 3-0, 1-0 in the region. RTH – playing its season opener – fell to 0-1 overall and in the region.
“We’re heading into region play now so we have to stay focused,” Brunelle said. “We can’t take anything for granted, have to keep working hard in practice and if we keep playing like we were playing in the second half, keep getting better, we’re going to have a great season.”
Richardton-Taylor-Hebron took the lead on a big play, as Paulson broke loose on the opening play of their second possession, sprinting to the end zone on a 42-yard touchdown run. Voigt’s PAT kick gave the Raiders a 7-0 lead.
Shiloh Christian drove 41 yards in four plays late in the first to get on the board. Mitzel connected with Isaac Heringer on a 31-yard strike to the RTH 6. On the next play, Walth carried it in from 6 yards out. The PAT kick failed, leaving RTH up 7-6.
Momentum swung both ways just 11 seconds apart right before the intermission.
Braiden Kuehn intercepted a fourth-down RTH pass and took it back 62 yards for a touchdown. Brunelle’s PAT kick gave the Skyhawks a 13-7 lead with 12 seconds to go in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Britton Paulson grabbed the ball, broke a tackle along the sideline en route to a 70-yard return TD. Voigt’s PAT kick made it 14-13 Raiders with 1 second to go before the break.
Shiloh Christian hosts Southern McLean on Friday, Sept. 13, while RTH squares off with Heart River in its home opener.