The much anticipated status of Scotus Central Catholic quarterback Tyler Palmer took a little longer to clear up on Friday night. Scotus received the opening kickoff from Logan View/Scriber-Snyder and fumbled the return.
When the hosts recovered the loose ball and the Raider offense took the field first, the drama surrounding the Shamrock signal caller lingered for a few minutes longer than expected. When it was finally answered, and backup Josh Faust lined up behind center, Scotus trailed 7-0 following a 14-yard LVSS touchdown pass.
If Faust had any nerves, those nerves certainly had the chance to simmer and boil over as he waited on the sideline and watched his teammates fall behind.
Instead, Faust led Scotus on three straight scoring drives, the Shamrocks scored six of the next seven touchdowns and earned a 42-22 road win on Friday in Hooper.
Running back Eric Mustard did his part to fill in for his dynamic teammate, scoring five of those six touchdowns on 24 carries and piling up 188 rushing yards. SCC had 431 yards on the ground total and improved to 7-1, locking in a playoff spot for the first time since 2016.
Mustard was one touchdown short of tying Palmer for the most points in a game. Palmer scored six times as a freshman against Pierce, according to the recollection of head coach Tyler Linder.
"Logan View has had their share of woes this year, but they're a good football team. If you look at their scores, they've played some really tough teams very close, and they're a talented ball club. So, I was nervous coming into this game.
Those nerves had to do not only with the absence of Palmer but because the situation had "trap game" written all over it.
Scotus was coming off back-to-back emotional wins over Wahoo Neumann and Lakeview, LVSS came in 0-7 and the SCC student body didn't have classes on Friday.
Some of Linder's anxiety was confirmed early when his side trailed 7-0. But Scotus answered back with touchdown runs by Mustard of 4, 36 and 2.
The Shamrocks held a 21-7 lead before the Raiders capped a drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass midway through the second.
Those were the final points of the first 24 minutes as the two teams headed to the locker rooms with Scotus up 21-14. Faust then led another scoring drive finished by Mustard on a 1-yard plunge before handing the reins over to Dalton Borchers.
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Up 28-14, Borchers extended the advantage with a scoring drive again punctuated by Mustard in the end zone then himself went in from four yards out.
SCC led 42-14 then gave up a 40-yard touchdown pass for the final points with 5:19 to go in the game.
"Just a really good performance from Eric. Everything was incredibly well blocked up front for him. Hats off to the linemen. They did a great job paving the way for those guys," Linder said. "Eric, Evan Bock, Dalton Borchers, Josh Faust, they all ran really tough tonight."
Borchers carried 15 times for 182, Bock touched it nine times and went for 36 and Faust was 6 of 8 through the air for 43 yards.
The Shamrock defense limited LVSS to 274 total yards and just 114 on the ground.
"He's not the biggest guy, but he's got a big heart. Heck, in the first half with Josh at quarterback, we scored 21 points. That's really good managing an offense," Linder said of the junior backup. "We didn't have any miscues with snaps or anything like that. He just did a really good job for us."
Scotus will close the season next week at No. 2 Wahoo with the district title on the line. With the playoffs now a certainty, will the Shamrocks risk Palmer on the field or feel more comfortable perhaps taking a loss while leaving him again on the sidelines, getting closer to 100 percent for the postseason?
"We're going to evaluate him with our training staff. We're going to put our athletes in a safe position to be successful. We don't ever rush athletes back from injury ever," Linder said. "I'm confident that Tyler and our trainer, Andrew Sheridan, will do everything they can to have him ready for Friday. Tyler is a competitor, and it kills him to sit on the sidelines.
"... If Tyler's not 100 percent, I'm not playing him. That does great detriment to him, and it leaves him open to re-aggravating an injury. Nothing would pain me more than to play a kid who's not quite ready, he re-aggrivates it and he's done for the year.
"Wahoo is a great team, but I'm confident in what I saw all week in practice and what I saw in glimpses tonight that we can compete at a very high level and run a very efficient offense and defense without Tyler. We love him, and we're better with him, but I'm confident in our guys that they'll step up and play their best."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.