COLUMBIA — Mike Johnson was silent.
Johnson, the defensive coordinator for the Tolton-Calvary football team, had watched his team fall behind by seven scores with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, and the opponent, Westran High School, was looking for touchdown number eight.
His two standout linebackers, junior Anthony Cofano and freshman Will Tindall, received no play call or pep talk. No blitz call or advice. They had the other nine players on the field and their 18 teammates on the sideline.
The team’s inexperience and mental mistakes through the first 53 minutes of regulation no longer mattered.
The Trailblazers dropped to 0-3 on the season after losing 48-0 to the Hornets on Saturday afternoon at Tolton. Westran quarterback Zane Jacoby, a sophomore, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another two. Senior running back Zach Morgan scored two touchdowns off first and third quarter runs.
But a big stop at the end of the fourth prevented another six points.
“Our team mentality and how we work together really pumped us up,” Cofano said. “That’s how we got it in the end.”
Despite being outscored 170-0 through the first three games of its inaugural varsity season, Tolton has not thrown in the towel at this point, a testament to what Johnson and head coach Chad Masters have emphasized for the new program.
“Just keep improving. That’s all we’ve asked, that’s what we’ve been preaching since the summer,” Johnson said. “We’ve done that so far. The scoreboard doesn’t dictate that or really represent that.
“It’s starting to click for some kids.”
It clicked when the Hornets’ offense crossed midfield on the final drive.
On first and 10, with Westran driving, junior Lane Reddick stopped a run up the middle. Two plays later, on third and 4, Cofano and Tindall combined to tackle a Westran back for a 3-yard loss.
One of the defenders yelled out, “that’s how we play football” just before the last offensive play for the Hornets.
On fourth and 7, Westran backup quarterback Parker Howard sprinted past the line of scrimmage and headed towards the first-down line, but Tindall was there waiting for him. The freshman lowered his shoulder and sent Howard to the wet grass about 2 yards short of the marker.
“It felt great,” Tindall said, smiling while covered in mud. “That last point, the adrenaline rush just really helped me.”
As for Tolton’s next opponent, Tipton High School, Tindall wants one thing.
“On Friday, we’re trying to beat them, pretty much,” he said.