For senior Austin Roberts, the start of Ozark High School’s 2012 football campaign couldn’t have been any better.
It took just over three minutes for Ozark to score three times against St. Joseph Benton on Saturday, as the Tigers posted 55 points in the first half and ran away with a 69-13 victory.
“I couldn’t have imagined a better start to the season,” Roberts said. “We were prepared and I think it showed today. All of us seniors have a short time left and we want to make the most of it.”
Roberts took the game’s opening kickoff and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead just 12 seconds in.
“On the opening kickoff, I saw my teammates execute their roles and I just followed them; I have to give credit to my teammates,” Roberts said.
Benton fumbled the handoff on its first play from scrimmage and Ozark senior Levi Tucker recovered the fumble on the Cardinals’ 28-yard line.
Two plays later, Ozark scored its second touchdown when senior quarterback David Salazar ran the ball in from 11 yards out for a 14-0 lead with 11:18 left in the first quarter.
“We set the tone early and (Benton) had their heads down,” Salazar said. “We capitalized on our opportunities and it shows on the scoreboard.”
On Benton’s second possession of the game, Ozark senior Blake Long blocked the Cardinals’ punt on fourth down and senior Levi Barnes picked up the loose ball and ran it in for a touchdown, making the score 22-0 with 9:52 left in the first quarter.
“I have no complaints,” Ozark coach Mark Bliss said. “We got off to a good start and the kids did some nice things today and we were pretty effective in all three phases. Our special teams helped us today, our defense did some nice things and we were able to get the ball to a lot of our playmakers on offense.”
The Tigers (1-0) scored five touchdowns in the second quarter alone, four of which coming from the right arm of Salazar.
First, Ozark senior Cody Lindsay capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 28-0 lead, then Salazar began the Tigers’ aerial attack. Salazar connected with Lindsay for a 4-yard touchdown pass for a 35-7 lead with 7:01 left in the half.
Next, showing poise in the pocket, Salazar faked a handoff up the middle, and then faked a handoff on the end around, before connecting with Roberts over the top of Benton’s secondary for a 35-yard touchdown.
On Ozark’s next possession, Roberts and Salazar hooked up again as Roberts took a short pass and turned it into a 53-yard score and a 48-7 lead.
Salazar’s fourth touchdown pass of the second quarter came on a 13-yard pass to senior Seth Wheeler as Ozark led 55-7 at halftime.
Salazar finished 6 of 9 for 131 yards and four touchdowns passing and had three rushes for 29 yards and a touchdown.
Benton junior Dontae White led the Cardinals with 138 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries.