Angola junior quarterback Tucker Hasselman fights through the tackles of a pair of St. Mary’s defenders while running with the ball during Friday’s home opener.

ANGOLA — Lucas Waite was pleading, loudly, for his offensive teammates to keep their heads up.

“Keep grinding!” another player shouted.

Further down the sideline, coaches sat huddled with members of Angola’s defense discussing how the unit had just been gashed, again, while trying to find ways to remedy the bleeding.

As the ball was snapped, and quarterback Tucker Hasselman once again handed the ball off to Antonio Luevanos for a meager gain, reality began to settle in. A game that was meant to headline a schedule — a clash of titans from across state lines — had quickly turned into a one-sided drubbing. The Eaglets of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s marched into Angola, and ran over, around and through the Hornets, who trailed 27-3 at the time.

Fans were mostly silent, save a few somber words of encouragement from the folks who stayed throughout the final 24 minutes to sit and watch the contest come to a merciful end.

St. Mary’s 40, Angola 3.

The Hornets entered Friday night hounded by uncertainty on defense, and the same problems that had plagued this team over the first two weeks of the season were exposed once again by an St. Marys’ team that accumulated 400 total yards of offense, including 326 on the ground.

Senior running back Anthony Anton carried the ball 13 times for 182 yards and scored four touchdowns against Angola. All but one carry and three yards came in a first half performance that was as dominant as any you will see this season.

Anton’s first score came just four plays into the game when the back who wears No. 33 darted up the middle of the defense before breaking toward the left sideline for a 54-yard gain and a score. On the Eaglets’ next possession, an eight-yard dash through a few arm tackles put St, Mary’s up 14-0.

Anton scored twice more before the half was through. A two-yard goal line plunge followed a 38-yard completion from quarterback Grant Henson to receiver Kam Arnold. Anton capped his performance with a 39-yard touchdown before the clocks hit zero.

After Anton’s first game-breaking score, Angola went on the move. But, as has been the case this year, on a wet and slippery night, the drives didn’t last.

Hasselman, who accounted for 66 yards, most of which came on the ground, completed a seven-yard pass to Luevanos to start the Hornets’ first drive, but a fumble by Ryan Brandt halted momentum. Hasselman would misfire on his final five throws of the half, and the Hornets doubled down on running the ball, but to little meager gains.

Angola gained 3.6 yards per carry in the opening half, and even less so in the second. For the game, the Hornets accumulated 130 total yards, on 43 plays from scrimmage, an average of 3.02 yards per play.

On the team’s final possession of its home opener, the game ended about how you’d expect, a safety as Luevanos was stuffed in the backfield, followed by a slow jog back over to the sideline.

As the game wore on, discussion amongst those broadcasting the game switched to the upcoming schedule. The Hornets begin their Northeast Corner Conference slate of games next week, beginning with a trip to Ligonier.

A team in search of a much-needed triumph, Angola will get a shot at its chief conference title contender out of the gates. Senior running back Brandon Pruitt, a big, muscular bruiser and a Division I-bound athlete presents challenges both on offense, and defense from his outside linebacker spot. Get past him, though, and the rest of the schedule should be smooth sailing.

It’s a matter of when, not if, this team gets its first win, and these first three games were against the toughest opponents Angola will see until the postseason.

Until that point, the Hornets search for answers continues.

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