WOODHULL -- He may have been a relative unknown prior to last weekend's season opener, but Annawan-Wethersfield football coach Brandon Johnston knew what he had in Gunner Ince.|
One week after scoring two touchdowns to help spark the Titans' opening-night win over Mid-County, the senior fullback was at it again Friday evening at Metzger Field against Ridgewood.
Teaming with classmate Micam Smith to form a formidable "two-headed monster'' in the A-W backfield, Ince scored three more times and rushed for 68 yards on 12 carries to help spark a 40-7 win and a 2-0 Lincoln Trail Conference start for the Titans.
"We obviously knew with Micam coming back, that he'd be solid for us,'' said Johnston. "But with Gunner coming in, I don't think too many knew about him, but we were comfortable with him. We moved Andrew (Draminski) up to the line, and one of the reasons was that Gunner needed to be on the field this year. He's played a good couple of games for us.''
Smith, who like Ince has scored five touchdowns in two starts, is happy to split the carries with Annawan-Wethersfield's newest standout back.
"It's great, because Gunner is such a good athlete,'' said Smith, who rushed for 127 yards and three TDs on just six totes. "He can do many things, and with the big plays he's had, that shows he's pretty good.''
But after Ince scored a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to help stake the Titans to a 20-0 lead, the Spartans (0-2) appeared primed to cut into that deficit. With a solid kickoff return by Kyle Rannie and a subsequent 15-yard face-masking penalty putting the ball at the A-W 20-yard line, Ridgewood worked its way to a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line.
On the next play, though, the Spartans coughed up the football and A-W recovered near the goal line. That turn of events killed Ridgewood's momentum, and gave its opponent an extra spark as they scored three third-period TDs to open up a 40-0 lead.
"That was big,'' said Ridgewood coach Josh Bentley. "It killed our momentum. Every time you leave points on the field, that's tough. It's hard to tell how we might have come out for the third quarter'' had the Spartans scored.
Smith tallied two of his three TDs in the third quarter as he, Ince and Bo VanOpdorp (48 yards on 10 carries) teamed with quarterback Jake Bennett (6-of-11 passing, 104 yards) to help the Titans cash in on four Ridgewood turnovers.
"We've still got many things to do before we hit our peak,'' said Smith. "That fumble pumped us up more, and we stepped it up toward the end.''
For their part, the Spartans did give their fans a moment to celebrate when quarterback Ridge Greenman hit Nate Humphrey with a short scoring pass in the game's closing seconds. Along with Rannie's 66 rushing yards and 155 total yards, it gives Ridgewood encouragement moving forward.
"The kids worked hard all week, so we had to find a way to get points on the board,'' said Bentley, who also got 45 yards on nine carries from Devontae Petrie. "It was nice to put together some drives. We're going to keep working on the fundamentals, but we made some strides.''
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