GRANVILLE — A year ago, the Granville Golden Horde were pushed all over their own field by Lake George/Hadley-Luzerne in the regular-season finale.
On Saturday, the Horde shoved back, dominating time of possession as they rumbled to a 16-6 Class C North victory over the WarEagles in the season opener for both teams.
Dayton Holcomb rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to power Granville, which won its season opener at home for the first time since 2010.
“These kids need that,” Granville head coach John Irion said, now in the third year of his rebuilding project. “You’ve got to have them start to believe in what you’re doing. When you’re always losing, it’s hard to get them to understand.”
The Horde certainly seemed to get it Saturday. As a team, Granville’s double-wing offense pounded out 250 rushing yards, paved by a line that includes three sophomore starters. Defensively, Granville held the WarEagles to 135 total yards, 100 of them coming on two plays, and four first downs.
“It’s all about the offensive line — you just stay behind them and trust them to open the holes,” said Holcomb, a senior who was injured last season. “They’re some of the strongest people around.”
“Our line stepped it up today,” senior tackle Alix Prouty said. “We had a guy (Theo Mann) go down today, and we still stepped up. Our young kids are getting really strong.”
Granville’s relentless push resulted in long possessions as they ground out chunks of yards. Holcomb scored on a 31-yard run in the first quarter, then added a 2-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth.
“That’s the goal, getting 5 or 6 yards a carry,” Irion said. “I like the breakaways, but that really wears them down. A lot of teams have to play a lot of guys both ways. We’re fortunate that most of our offensive line doesn’t have to play D-line. That’s a huge advantage for us.”
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However, the Horde left some points on the field. Long drives stalled at the WarEagles’ 17-, 24- and 6-yard lines — the last a 17-play drive that took 10 minutes off the clock but came up empty.
“We need to finish our red-zone drives, that’s going to be essential,” Irion said. “The little mistakes that slowed us down, we’re going to fix some of those, they aren’t always going to happen.”
With Granville owning time of possession, LG/H-L was able to run only 26 offensive plays in the entire game — and only 14 of them in the first three quarters. Holcomb and sophomore Alex Warrington had sacks for the Horde.
“We knew we had to keep their top players contained — we did that and we shut down their offense,” Holcomb said. “Our defensive linemen made it easy for us to go after the ball. We only have 25 kids, but our scout team is giving us tremendous looks.”
The WarEagles got a 60-yard run by Isaiah Burnett on a broken play, after he scooped up his own fumble and headed a different direction. That set up a 1-yard Cole Clarke touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Later, Clarke completed a 40-yard pass to his brother, Shane, to account for LG/H-L’s other big play.
“We have some speed, but not a lot of size, and they have size and strength, so they ground it out on us,” WarEagles head coach Jeff Bennett said. “We have to figure out how to move the ball yet. We can’t live off the big play, we need to get a few first downs. But the kids never quit — they battled, they stayed physical and tough.”