GRAND ISLAND -- The game plan was simple for Pleasanton on Friday night against Heartland Lutheran.
Run the ball and control the line of scrimmage. That strategy worked in spades as the two teams battled nearly 30 mile per hour winds with the Bulldogs moving to 3-2 after an 86-20 win over the Red Hornets on homecoming. Heartland Lutheran dropped to 0-5.
“With the wind and the cold, we tried to keep things pretty simple,” Pleasanton coach Ricci Westland said. “I thought from the start we executed really well. After a 1-7 year last year, our kids really dedicated themselves in the offseason. They’ve done a really good job this year.”
Pleasanton did not pass the entire game. They ran 62 times for 529 yards as five backs carried the ball at least eight times with junior quarterback Brendan Axmann and freshman Ryan Busch both topping 100 yards.
“We got moved off the ball quite a bit,” Heartland Lutheran coach Preston Gehle said. “But, we got in the backfield a lot, too, and we just couldn’t finish the play. I love our kids effort, we never quit. They never give up and their attitude has been great.”
The Red Hornets have fought through a brutal opening schedule as their five losses have now come to teams that are 22-5 overall on the season. They will play winless Cedar Valley next week.
“We are young and learning,” Gehle said. “We only have one senior out there and this is the first year he has played football. We see things that are getting better for us each week.”
For the Red Hornets, there were some early fireworks.
After Pleasanton marched 60 yards in nine plays to open the game, junior Jonny Simonson returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown. His pass to Jose Zapita tied the game with 8:20 left in the first quarter.
Then, the Bulldogs took control. Axmann, who finished with 111 yards on nine carries, scored on option runs of 3 and 21 yards for a 24-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. Later, he picked up a Devin Hueftle fumble and went 12 yards for a score and the flood gates opened.
After forcing a Heartland Lutheran punt on their next possession, the Bulldogs scored 30 points over the next 3 minutes, 15 seconds to take control. Senior back Jake Neal scored on runs of 3, 5 and 5 yards and Jon Kohlscheen returned a Jake Sanders screen pass 25 yards for a score.
When Josh Roe scored with 50 seconds left before halftime, Simonson went to work again returning the Bulldog kick 67 yards for a touchdown.
“Jonny is a heck of an athlete,” Gehle said. “We do as much as we can to get him the ball in space. He must have had a ton of return yards tonight.”
Hueftle was 5-for-7 for 35 yards passing with a late 6-yard touchdown pass to Simonson. He added 55 yards on 13 carries, but the Red Hornets could manage just 36 total rushing yards on 29 attempts.
Pleasanton (3-2) ....................... 24 43 0 19 – 86
Heartland Lutheran (0-5) .......... 8 6 0 6 – 20
P – Anthony Hill 2 run (Jon Kohlscheen run), 8:15
HL – Jonny Simonson 70 kick return (Jose Zapita pass from Simonson), 8:02
P – Brendan Axmann 3 run (Jake Neal run), 5:23
P – Axmann 21 run (Colton Lammers run), 3:48
P – Axmann 12 fumble return (pass failed), 9:31
P – Neal 3 run (Hill run), 5:55
P – Neal 5 run (Kohlscheen run), 5:03
P – Neal 5 run (Kohlscheen run), 4:27
P – Kohlscheen 25 interception return (kick failed), 4:13
P – Josh Roe 3 run (Dalton Loeffelholz kick), :50
HL – Simonson 68 kick return (run failed), :37
P – Ryan Busch 2 run (kick failed), 11:21
P – Busch 30 run (Loeffelholz kick), 7:10
HL – Simonson 6 pass from Devin Hoeftle (run failed), 2:42
P – Brandon Klein 9 run (run failed), :24
RUSHING – P, Kohlscheen 3-26, Neal 10-60, Hill 6-29, Lammers 8-69, Axmann 9-111, Roe 10-83, Miller 2-10, Busch 10-103, Reese 3-29, Klein 1-9. HL, Warenke 4-(minus 8), Sanders 6-(minus 8), Simonson 4-(minus 6), Zapita 2-6, Hoeftle 13-55
PASSING – P, none. HL, Sanders 1-6-15-2, Hoeftle 5-7-35-0
RECEIVING – P, none. HL, Hoeftle 1-15, Simonson 3-15, Zapita 2-20.