Related:Check out what the NewsVroom did at South Western on Friday.
After two straight losses, the South Western High Mustang football team had fallen below .500 with a 3-4 record.
Instead of continuing the streak on Friday night, the Mustangs did some soul-searching and dialed up a 28-5 win over the struggling Red Lion Lions at The Mustang Corral.
"Big win," South Western head coach Damian Poalucci said. "After you lose two in a row the way we did, you're really itching for a win. You need that win. It's good for the soul."
South Western (4-4, 1-2 YAIAA I) was led by a 160-yard, three-touchdown performance from halfback Dillon Thomas, and a stingy defense that yielded just 122 total yards and forced three turnovers.
"He's a bull, and he runs like a bull, and I've been saying that all year," Poalucci said of Thomas. "He can't do it without the line. The line played extremely well tonight. They are the key to what Dillon does, even though he can create some things on his own."
South Western attempted a surprise onside kick on the opening kickoff, and Chris Weibe recovered for the Mustangs, but each team started the game with two scoreless possessions.
On Red Lion's second possession, quarterback Blake Cahill bobbled a slightly high snap and put it on the ground. South Western's Gabe Morela pounced on the football at the Lions' 28 and, a few plays later, Thomas took an inside counter over the left side and barged into the end zone from five yards out.
Jake Tracy's kick made it 7-0 in favor of the Mustangs.
"We are a very young team. Too many turnovers, too many mistakes," Red Lion head coach Pat Conrad said.
Another turnover doomed Red Lion's first forray into the South Western red zone early in the second quarter.
Set up with first-and-10 at the Mustang 12-yard line, Cahill handed the ball off to Kenny Holloway, who tried to get to the corner on the left side. Outside linebacker Ryan Lane contained the play, sealing off the edge, and threw Holloway to the ground.
As Holloway twisted down, Lane pryed the ball free and then recovered the fumble, ending the drive.
Red Lion would get on the board as a result of the field position, but it was only a safety. After a three-and-out by South Western, the snap sailed over Brandon Utz's head and into the end zone on a punt attempt. Utz recovered, but was gang-tackled by a host of Lions, making it 7-2.
Late in the second quarter, Jerome Robinson picked off a deflected pass from Cahill and returned it to Red Lion territory. The turnover set up a touchdown drive that ended with Tyler Sterner's 1-yard quarterback plunge with 37 seconds left in the half.
The Mustangs fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half, giving Red Lion golden field position at the South Western 27, but all the Lions could muster was a 32-yard field goal.
A controversial play happened on the next drive, and the result swung momentum in South Western's favor.
Sterner threw a short pass to Robinson, and the ball was wrestled away from him as he was going down. Red Lion players grabbed the ball and celebrated like they had forced a turnover, but the officials gathered and ruled the play an incompletion, making it third-and-9 for the Mustangs on their own 21.
Before the next snap, Conrad incurred a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving South Western a first down.
On the next play, Dakotah Moses broke a 39-yard run, and Thomas pounded in a 22-yard score to make it 21-5.
Red Lion 0 2 3 0 -- 5
So. Western 7 7 7 7 -- 28
SW -- Dillon Thomas 5 run (Jake Tracy kick), 3:07
RL -- Safety, Brandon Utz tackled in end zone, 9:15
SW -- Tyler Sterner 1 run (Tracy kick), 0:37
RL -- Devon Bohlen 32 FG, 8:39
SW -- Thomas 22 run (Tracy kick), 6:57
SW -- Thomas 26 run (Tracy kick), 11:33
-- RL -- SW
First downs -- 9 -- 14
Rushes-yards -- 35-72 -- 41-195
Passing -- 5-23-1 -- 3-9-0
Passing yards -- 50 -- 26
Total yards -- 122 -- 221
Punts -- 2-33.0 -- 3-33.0
Fumbles-lost -- 4-2 -- 1-1
Penalties-yards -- 5-50 -- 8-55
Rushing -- Red Lion, Kenny Holloway 12-44, Josh Jones 10-19, Blake Cahill 8-11, Don Guerreri 3-9, Ryan Edie 1-7, Team 1-(-18); South Western, Thomas 20-160, Dakotah Moses 3-48, Bobby Wildasin 5-22, Zach Osborne 4-10, Payton Taylor 2-6, Camden Brown 1-0, Brandon Utz 1-(-1), Tyler Sterner 3-(-3), Team 2-(-47).
Passing -- Red Lion, Cahill 5-23-1-50; South Western, Mike Duffy 0-3-0-0, Sterner 3-6-0-26.
Receiving -- Red Lion, Dan Althoff 2-11, Mitch Baublitz 1-18, Seth Haight 1-11, Alex Keller 1-10; South Western, Taylor 1-11, Mike Mooradian 1-9, Jerome Robinson 1-6.