MECHANICSBURG — Holy football, Batman.
In the classic Batman television show, Cesar Romero played primary nemesis the Joker — a super villain whose primary focus was to keep the caped crusader off balance.
As quarterback of Mechanicsburg High School, Kaleb Romero came into Friday’s contest against West Jefferson High School with a few tricks up his sleeve.
Romero unveiled many of those in the second quarter as he ran for two touchdowns and threw for another pair in that stanza alone to lead the Indians to a 29-8 halftime lead, and eventual 43-8 victory over the visiting Roughriders.
“Kaleb is quite a duel threat,” said Mechanicsburg coach Kurt Forrest of his junior quarterback. “People know he can run, but he has improved as a passer as well.”
After some season-opening jitters displayed by both teams, West Jefferson got on the board first as Roughriders quarterback Conor Powell ran the read-option to perfection when he sprinted down the right sideline and outran the Indians defense for an 81-yard touchdown scamper. The visitors led 8-0 after Powell ran in for two.
As the scoreboard switched to the second quarter, it was Romero who flipped a switch.
First it was a 12-yard run up the middle by Romero — and his ensuing two-point conversion — that tied the game at 8-8.
Following a three and out by the Roughriders, it just took two plays for the Indians to take the lead for good.
On the first play, Romero was stopped in his tracks by Roughriders Trevor Ferguson and DJ Braithwaite.
Then on the next, the shifty Mechanicsburg quarterback faked a run up the middle and then threw a dart down the middle to a wide open Phillip Cook for a 62-yard scoring pass.
Especially early in the season, one thing that can really hurt a team are turnovers. West Jefferson found that out the hard way.
“If you lose the turnover battle, you usually don’t fare too well in the game,” said West Jefferson coach Shawn Buescher. “But we were sloppy in all three phases of the game.”
The Roughriders fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the ball right back to Romero and Mechanicsburg.
Just 26 seconds after their last score the Indians were in the end zone again. It was a near identical play to their last offensive one as Romero hooked up again with Cook down the middle to put the home squad up 22-8.
“It was a similar play to the last one because we liked our odds of our athlete against a linebacker,” Forrest said of Romero-Cook connection two. “Our running game opens some things up.”
With West Jeff set to get the ball to begin the second half, they knew if they scored before the break, it would be a one possession game headed into the third quarter.
The Indians had other ideas.
After Mechanicsburg intercepted a West Jeff pass in the end zone with just over a minute remaining in the opening half, Cook took over on the ground. Romero connected with David Harvey for a long pass. Then, with no timeouts left, Romero ran it in from four yards out and just five seconds before half to by all accounts putting the game out of reach.
Cook added a pair of rushing touchdowns in the third quarter to activate the continuous clock.
While the Indians hope to ride the wave of their early success throughout the season, the Roughriders know they have some work to do.
“We’ve got to get better as a team, we’ve got to get better as a staff,” Buescher said. “We have to look at ourselves in a mirror.”
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