HARVARD — Heartland Lutheran started its six-man top 10 showdown against No. 1-rated Harvard by recovering its onside kick.
The highlights were few and far between for the No. 7 Red Hornets after that.
The Cardinals scored four touchdowns before allowing a first down and routed Heartland Lutheran 60-14.
That left the Red Hornets (4-1) looking for ways to turn the results into a positive.
“I told them that nobody builds something overnight,” Red Hornets coach Tim Leech said. “There’s a hiccup game in every season. When you play the No. 1 team in the state and this talented and this well-coached, if you’re not ready to win that game yet, it’s tough to overcome that.
“But this is just a life lesson, just a building block lesson, and we’ll come back ready to go next week. We hope to see them again in the playoffs.”
Harvard quarterback Noah Okraska passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two more. Oscar Medina ran for 127 yards on 13 carries with three scores and also returned an interception 39 yards for another TD.
Cardinals coach Scott Trimble felt his offense wasn’t quite as sharp as it had been, but his defense was another story.
The Harvard starters gave up 104 yards of total offense on 36 plays.
“I thought our defense was pretty well on point all day long,” Trimble said. “We just had one or two little mistakes. For us to take away a majority of their options and then to be there when they made plays, I thought overall our defense set the tone and did a really good job.”
The Cardinals (6-0) harassed quarterback Justus Bader, who went 9-for-17 for 160 yards with a 39-yard touchdown to Tyler Green. He also had an interception — his first in his 111th pass of the season — and was held to negative-18 yards rushing on nine carries.
“You can’t give Justus time to throw the ball and let him get his eyes downfield and have time to pick his receivers,” Trimble said. “Watching previous film, teams didn’t put pressure on him. We felt like, hey, let’s see what happens if he had more to contend with than looking because he’s too good to give time.
“If we could do that and also limit his rushing at the same time, we felt like we could have a chance to be pretty successful.”
Leech said injuries along the offensive line didn’t help against a defense like Harvard’s.
“They’re very athletic and they brought a little more pressure than we’re used to seeing,” he said. “But I think some of the injuries that we had and the guys who weren’t on the field also led to that. Our starting center (Brendan Johnson) is out of the game for this week, so that was rough.
“But you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They’re an extremely talented team.”
Heartland Lutheran’s final touchdown came in the fourth quarter when 5-foot-9, 150-pound sophomore Victor Gaunt broke several tackles en route to a 33-yard score. He also held his own for the defense throughout the game.
“That kid is the smallest kid out there on the football field, but he held that line and got off of blocks for tackles,” Leech said. “Then he made that run at the end for the touchdown. Any coach would take seven Victor Gaunts. He’ll just keep leading this team forward even as a sophomore.”