By Tyler Hemstreet
With their eyes set on taking another step to completing a worst-to-first turnaround season, the White River Hornets ran into another team seeking redemption from a poor finish last year.
The Franklin Pierce Cardinals stumbled to a 4-6 record last year, and with an SPSL 2A league title up for grabs this year, the Cardinals showed just how hungry they are on Friday night.
Franklin Pierce took advantage of several White River mistakes, and got 116 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Iopu Ignacio in defeating the Hornets, 39-19, in Buckley.
With the win, the Cardinals forged a tie for first in the league at 4-1 with two games to play.
“It lets us get in the driver’s seat,” Franklin Pierce coach Howard Lutton said. “We’ve got a lot of things to prove (after last season).”
The Cardinals showed that sense of urgency early, bursting out of the gate with a 10-play, 56-yard drive. Ignacio capped it off with a 2-yard run.
“He’s got great vision, and he’s kind of a load to bring down,” Lutton said of Ignacio.
Franklin Pierce (5-2 overall) got the ball back and struck again as Isaac Mustin ripped off a 47-yard touchdown run. White River put itself in an early hole, muffing a handoff in the backfield, which Curtis Cepeda scooped up and ran 34 yards for a touchdown. The Cardinals led 21-0 after the first quarter.
“They played a little bit uptight and dropped some balls they should have caught, and let us get some momentum going,” Lutton said.
Mustin added another score on a 14-yard run with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left in the half as Franklin Pierce led 27-6 at the half in piling up 262 total yards.
Garrett Quiles hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Zach McMillen for the Hornets’ only score of the first half. White River (5-2, 4-1) turned the ball over three times in the first half as the Cardinals had two interceptions as well, both by Jaun Biddix. He finished with three for the game.
Franklin Pierce added to its cushion in the second half, getting touchdown runs of 4 and 35 yards runs from Ignacio.
“I just do the same thing every game… run the ball hard,” said Ignacio, who finished with 19 carries and also had two catches for 38 yards. “We wanted to come out and show the whole conference that last year’s season we weren’t a team. This year we came out as a unit and learned from our mistakes last year.”
Mustin finished with 79 rushing yards on just four carries and had one reception for 46 yards. Quarterback Reilley Peirce added 113 passing yards and 47 rushing yards for the Cardinals, who close out the season against rival Washington.
White River got touchdown runs from Josh Miller and Devin Liebel in the second half.