By ANDY WOLF
ARLINGTON — A quick safety dance got McComb on the right path to a victory dance.
The Panthers swarmed Arlington’s Devin Plunkett in the end zone on the second play of the game to get on the scoreboard first.
While it was only two points, McComb kept the pressure on, scoring the first 23 points and eventually controlling Arlington for a 39-12 win in a battle of two of the four Blanchard Valley Conference unbeatens Friday night.
The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in the latest Division VII state poll, are 5-0 overall for the first time since 2012 and 2-0 in the BVC.
“We’ve been playing well. We’ve just got to keep that ball rolling and keep that momentum going,” McComb senior quarterback Tanner Schroeder said. “Two unbeaten teams, it’s always fun to come out here and play but especially when you’ve got that BVC championship on the line.”
“It’s awesome to be 5-0; it’s a good Arlington team,” McComb coach Kris Alge said.
The Red Devils, ranked No. 6, fell to 4-1 overall, 2-1 in league play.
The other two BVC unbeatens in Pandora-Gilboa and Leipsic both kept pace with McComb with wins over Van Buren (42-0) and Hopewell-Loudon (34-14), respectively.
McComb did it with three first-half takeaways and a punishing ground game.
Schroeder and Kheaghan Loe combined for 31 carries and 304 of McComb’s 330 rushing yards.
Loe, the BVC’s leading rusher at 117.3 yards per game, tallied three rushing scores of 50, 9 and 13 yards out to now stand at 11 touchdowns this season.
Schroeder only attempted 10 passes, completing five for 68 yards and a 24-yard touchdown pass to Ryan O’Dell.
“The line was blocking great and making nice holes,” Schroeder said. “Those are easy to run through.”
Arlington bobbled the opening kickoff and got tackled at its own 5-yard line.
The Red Devils lost four yards on its first play and turned to their bruiser in Plunkett to get some breathing room.
McComb defensive lineman Andrew Smith helped slam the door shut, making first contact with Plunkett in the end zone before more Panthers joined in.
“(The safety) really sets a tone early, helps us out and gets our energy up real quick,” said Schroeder, who made the tackle for loss on the first play.
Arlington coach Josh McGrain knew his team needed to come back, only trailing 2-0, and respond to a “play-making” team in McComb.
Momentum did shift to the Red Devils for an instant as Schroeder fumbled on the ensuing punt return after crossing midfield.
But Arlington quickly went three-and-out and the Panthers went to work on controlling the line of scrimmage.
McComb covered all 91 yards of its next drive in eight plays. Schroeder’s 49-yard run whilst hurdling over two defendrand his 30-yard pass to Tyler Durfey took them down to the 1.
Jacob Dillon plunged on the next play to give the Panthers a 9-0 lead just 6:29 in.
Arlington stalled for another three-and-out on its next drive only to give up a 50-yard scoring run to Loe around the left side on McComb’s next play.
Loe’s second touch of the game gave the Panthers a 16-0 lead.
McComb tacked on another touchdown two drives later with Schroeder’s touchdown pass to O’Dell set up by a play fake.
The Panthers only had 37 yards to go as the Red Devils coughed up their first of two fumbles on consecutive plays via bad snaps.
Arlington finally got on the board when Jacob Russell hit Ryan Metzger for 74-yard passing touchdown at the 6:14 mark in the second quarter.
It was one of only two explosive offensive plays on the night for the Red Devils.
The second came on a 72-yard run by Plunkett in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
McComb had already set the running clock rule into effect with a 39-6 lead.
Plunkett punched in two plays later and finished with 90 yards on 11 carries.
Russel threw for 196 yards and two interceptions, 142 to Metzger, but netted 1 rushing yard in 10 rushes.
“They were getting good penetration in the back field,” McGrain said. “They were putting pressure on the quarterback when we were trying to throw the ball, too.”
McComb doesn’t have much time to celebrate, though.
The Panthers completed only leg one of facing all three BVC unbeatens on the road and travel to No. 8-ranked Leipsic on Friday.
“On the road again,” Alge said. “We got Leipsic next week and they’ll be fired up for us. I’ve got to get guys healed up; it was a hard hitting game with Arlington.”
McComb 16 10 7 6 — 39
Arlington 0 6 0 6 — 12
MCC — Safety
MCC — Jac. Dillon 1 run (Schroder kick)
MCC — Loe 50 run (Schroeder kick)
MCC — O’Dell 24 pass from Schroeder (Schroeder kick)
ARL — Metzger 74 pass from Russell (kick blocked)
MCC — Schroeder 25 FG
MCC — Loe 9 run (Schroeder kick)
MCC — Loe 13 run (kick failed)
ARL — Plunkett 2 run (kick failed)
First Downs 8 7
Rushes-yards 40-330 27-112
Passing Yards 68 198
Comp-Att-Int 5-10-0 13-25-2
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-3
Penalties-Yards 14-129 6-60
rushing — McComb, Schroeder 15-161, Loe 16-143,Durfey 3-14, Jac. Dillon 3-6, Miller 1-5, Hendren 2-0. Arlington, Plunkett 11-90, O’Rear 6-21, Russell 10-1.
passing — Schroeder 5-10-68-0. Arlington, Russell 13-25-198-2.
receiving — McComb, O’Dell 2-32, Durfey 2-29, Dillon 1-7. Arlington, Metzger 5-142, Plunkett 4-31, Fredette 2-15, Berry 1-11, Vermillion 1-9.