MERCER - For the second consecutive season, Eisenhower opened its season with a loss at the hands of a tough Region 1 Mercer squad, falling to the Mustangs, 41-13, on Friday night at Mercer High School.
Things got rough for the Knights just 45 seconds into the game. The Knights received the opening kickoff and, on the second play from scrimmage, handed it right back. Quarterback Rob Wilston threw a ball straight into the chest of Mustangs defender TJ Peters, who ran 25 yards untouched into the end zone. Eisenhower managed to block Chase Hoffman's extra point attempt to keep the score at 6-0.
Later in the quarter, a solid drive from the Knights ended abruptly with a fumble, and Mercer cashed in, driving down the field and scoring on a one-yard run from Zane O'Brien. A two-point conversion made the score 14-0.
Eisenhower answered back, immediately, with Alex Johnson breaking free and scampering 74 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead in half and give his team new life.
The score remained 14-7 until the very end of the half, when Mercer quarterback Logan Clarke found Jarred Davis for a 10-yard touchdown pass with just 18 seconds remaining.
The Mustangs put the game mostly out of reach in the third quarter, as O'Brien ran in his second touchdown, and Clarke later found Dylan Angermeier for another, making the score 34-7.
M-T.J. Peters 25 INT return (kick blocked),11:15
M-Zane O'Brien 1 run (Luke Leonard 2-pt pas from Logan Clarke), 3:30
E-Alex Johnson 74 run (Grant Venman kick), 3:11
M-Jarred Davis 10 pass from Clarke (Chase Hoffman kick), :18
M-O'Brien 3 run (Hoffman kick), 9:39
M-Dylan Angermeier 9 pass from Clarke (kick failed), 3:20
E-Johnson 50 pass from Rob Wilston (kick failed), 1:54
M-O'Brien 3 run (Hoffman kick), 7:01
RUSHING-E-Alex Johnson 10-99, 1 TD, Wilston 15-58, Bryce Garris 2-24, Carter Farrell 1-2; M-Clarke 16-150, O'Brien 9-72, 3 TD, Jonathan Wegrzynek 9-28, Leonard 1-6, Isaiah Bartolone 1-0, Trent Leonard 2-(-10).
PASSING-E-Wilston 5-10, 90, 1 TD, 1 INT; M- Clarke 13-18-158, 2 TD
RECEIVING-E-Alex Johnson 2-65, 1 TD, Garrett Johnson 1-15, Louie Head 2-10; M-Davis 3-44, 1 TD, Brayton Edwards 3-41, Luke Leonard 2-25, T.J. Peters 2-16, Walter Haines 1-12, O'Brien 1-11, Angermeier 1-9, 1 TD
Johnson was able to score his second touchdown of the game when he took a short pass from Wilston and ran 50 yards downfield, sneaking the ball just inside the pylon while being tackled.
Mercer would add its final touchdown in the fourth quarter when O'Brien rushed into the end zone for the third time.
For the Knights, the first-quarter turnovers were the real killer.
"When you give a good team opportunities early on - the pick-six, the fumble on a promising drive - they'll make you pay," said Eisenhower head coach Jim Penley. "We can't turn the ball over like that. We can't have mental lapses. Against a good team, the margin for error is so small."
Johnson finished with 99 yards on the ground and 65 through the air, while scoring both Knights touchdowns. Wilston finished 5-of-10 passing for 90 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while also rushing for 58 yards.
Clarke did most of the damage for the Mustangs, rushing for 150 yards and passing for 158.
The revamped Knights now hope to pull a page from last season's playbook, as a season ago they went 8-1 through the remainder of the regular season following their loss to the Mustangs.
Eisenhower will have its home and region opener next week, hosting Maplewood at 7 p.m. Friday. The Knights cruised to a 48-19 victory over the Tigers last season.