COMING THROUGH: Lewis Cass' Justin Kloski (33) plows through a Taylor defender during the first half of Friday's game at Lewis Cass High School. (Pharos-Tribune photo by Angi Turnpaugh)

WALTON — Class 2A No. 1-ranked Lewis Cass uncharacteristically sputtered on offense against Taylor in Mid-Indiana Conference play Friday night at Owens Memorial Field. The Kings turned the ball over three times and saw two other drives end on downs inside the red zone.

Yet, the Kings had control of the game all the way thanks to another rock-solid defensive performance. Cass held Taylor to just 58 yards to take a 25-0 homecoming win.

“That is by far the best defense we’ve seen this season,” Taylor coach Josh Ousley said. “We have to get better on offense and we know that. They just exposed us in our areas of weakness. … They are a very good football team and they deserve all the credit they’re getting right now.”

The Kings are in a defensive groove to say the least. They have posted three straight shutouts — their best streak since a run of four in a row in the second half of the 1978 season — and they have four shutouts overall this season.

“We’re keeping the rock rolling, I guess,” senior defensive tackle Connor McCulley said. “We’re all pumped. We’re all members of the Dawg Pack and if we want to keep wearing our Dawg Pack shirts, then we have to win — and we really want to wear these shirts. Plus, on Thursdays we receive rewards and stuff. If we win, we receive ‘Bone Hit’ awards (for the biggest hits) and we’re on a streak now where the defense has won the ‘Bone Hit’ for the last three games. We want to keep that going.”

McCulley and Dustin Roberts fueled the Kings’ defensive fire Friday. Roberts, an outside linebacker, had a dozen tackles and McCulley followed with 11. Also for the Kings, Rory Mannering and Justin Kloski each had an interception and Levi Rouch had a fumble recovery.

“The defense played a very good football game,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said. “They were physical, didn’t give up big plays and they tackled well. Our defensive line probably played as well as they have all season against a good-sized offensive line. That was a big plus.”

Cass opened the game with a bang as Garrett Segraves ripped off a 66-yard run to the Taylor 1-yard line on the third play from scrimmage. Taylor defensive back Zsan Black chased down Segraves to prevent the touchdown, but Segraves followed with a 1-yard TD plunge for a quick 6-0 lead.

From there, Cass failed to put down the hammer offensively in the first half. The Kings moved the ball well, but had mistakes that caused their next four drives to fizzle. Still, Cass maintained the 6-0 lead thanks to its relentless defensive performance.

Cass finally gained some separation late in the first half. Alex Evans picked up 43 yards on the first two plays of a drive that started at the Cass 49 and three plays later, Kloski scored on a 3-yard run for a 12-0 lead with 51.7 seconds remaining.

At halftime, Cass had 243 yards and 11 first downs and Taylor had just 11 yards and one first down.

The Kings put the game away early in the second half thanks once again to their defense. Rouch and Rory Mannering ended the Titans’ first two possessions of the half with a fumble recovery and an interception, respectively, and the Kings followed each takeaway with a quick scoring drive for a 25-0 lead with 8:22 left in the third quarter.

“We knew coming into this game that they were going to score points. We just had to limit what they scored,” Ousley said. “In the first half we did a good job of that. In the second half, we come out and our offense sets up their offense two times in a row. You can’t play with a No. 1 team in the state if you’re giving them a short field because they have too many weapons.”

Cass finished 316 rushing yards. Garrett Segraves had 137 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries and Evans complemented his solid backfield blocking with 107 yards on 14 carries.

Still, the Kings left a lot of points on the field as the result of mental and physical mistakes.

“We didn’t play to our potential offensively,” Scott Mannering said. “We were undisciplined at times and we were sloppy. We just didn’t execute some things. But defensively, we played very hard and that kept us ahead.”

Robvis Stamp had 42 rushing yards to lead Taylor and Black led the defensive effort.

“Our kids played hard and they didn’t back down one bit. I am proud of my kids. But, we have to get some stuff figured out on offense,” Ousley said.

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