Their ground game rolled like a speeding 18-wheeler.
The Sault Sabercats rushed for a whopping 613 yards on Saturday, en route to a 56-35, Ontario Football Conference victory over the Chatham Cougars at Chatham Kent Secondary School.
Running back Nick Pagnotta rushed for five touchdowns, finishing with 366 yards on 22 carries.
Quarterback Tyler Brechin ran for the other three majors, rushing for 212 yards on 23 attempts as the junior varsity Cats improved their record to 4-1.
The loss for Chatham was the Cougars first, and dropped their record to 4-1.
“We had a game plan and we executed it,” said Cats head coach Jim Monico, downplaying the sheer dominance of his team’s running attack. “The interior of our offensive line is one of our strengths and the line did exactly what we wanted them to do.”
“The O-line moved the line of scrimmage and I just followed them,” said Pagnotta, who also had a five-touchdown game last season for the junior Cats. “We went into the game thinking we were going to pound the ball and it worked out really well.”
Tied 28-28 at halftime, Pagnotta scored his fifth TD on a 16-yard run early in the third quarter. Gaston Matilla booted his fifth of eight consecutive converts to make it 35-28.
After a stop on defence, Brechin scored his first touchdown on a 15-yard run and the visitors took a 42-28 lead.
Pagnotta’s additional touchdowns came on runs of 26, 24, 61 and 42 yards. Brechin’s other major scores came on rushes covering one and 15 yards.
“We’re very proud. We take a lot of pride in opening holes,” guard Aaron Wheten said of the offensive line’s performance. “We’ve actually been playing really well the last couple of games. We’re running the ball a lot better now than at the start of the year.”
Wheten is part of an offensive line which includes fellow guard Aaron Mills, centre Dylan Monico and tackles Christian Alfano and Ryan Duncan.
“They just couldn’t stop our run,” Jim Monico said. “They played a defence we knew we could dominate if they didn’t adjust.”
Still, a total of 613 yards is almost unheard of.
“Yeah we’re surprised,” Pagnotta said of the rushing total. “But we all just pushed and worked for it.”
The Sault actually trailed 14-0 early after the team bus didn’t arrive at the field until roughly 6:10 p.m., some 50 minutes from the 7 p.m. start time.
“We had a long bus ride, but we got dressed, had a quick warmup and started playing,” Monico said. “We came out flat early, but they didn’t really stop us after that.”
The JV Cats take a four-game win streak into their third consecutive road game, this Sunday at 1 p.m. in London against the Forest City Thunderbirds.
Notes: Konner Ritchie finished with five carries for 25 yards while Tristan O’Flynn rushed for 10 yards on three carries.
Brechin finished with two completions in six attempts for 44 yards.
On defence, Zach Martin led the Sault with four solo tackles while Matilla and Luke Caccamo had three solos each. Ethan Fawcett had an interception and both Matilla and Josh Marrello recovered on-side kicks.