Laporte kicked off the football season Thursday night at home facing Park Christian, and while the ‘Cats played hard, the defense gave up too many big plays and the offense struggled to move the ball.

The Falcons scored five touchdowns in the first half, including two on a 59-yard pitch and catch and a 54 yard run, on their way to a 41-0 win.

The Wildcats, who failed to cross midfield and only had two first downs, came into the season-opener without a few key players. Juniors Darin Cronemiller, Wyatt Johannsen and Isaiah Johnson, sophomore Jesse Cronemiller and freshman Justin Clyde were out with injuries and other ailments. That meant Laporte had one senior starter and the rest underclassman, including seven freshman.

The Wildcats finished the game with only 63 yards of offense, with 40 of them coming in the first half.

Junior Gibson Smith rushed for 34 yards and freshman Caleb Howg had 23 yards on the ground. Devon Lafriniere, who was under heavy pressure all game long, completed two passes for seven yards. He was also sacked three times. Lafriniere also had six returns for 102 yards.

The Falcons scored twice in the first quarter and took a 34-0 halftime lead as they amassed 269 yards of offense. Their only score of the second half came on their first possession after taking over the ball on downs at Laporte’s 32. Seven plays later and after a pass interference penalty moved the ball to the seven, the Falcons scored on a short run.

Laporte opened the game receiving the ball, but a false-start penalty followed by negative run forced a punt. The Falcons scored on their first offensive play as Payton Spaeth and Ethan Jorgenson connected on a 59-yard pitch and catch, with Riley Erkenbrack kicking the extra point.

The Wildcats’ second possession ended in disaster as the snap to punter Chris McDougall sailed over his head, and Park Christian took over possession at the 27. Jorgenson broke a tackle in the backfield on second down to move the ball to the one, and on the next play Spaeth scored.

Isaac Janssen scored on a one-yard run, Jorgenson on a 54-yard sweep around the left end and Spaeth on a one-yard sneak for a 34-0 halftime lead.

Laporte’s only first down of the first half came on their second possession as Smith took a handoff and picked up 14 yards.

On the defensive side, Howg and Smith led with seven solo tackles, Chris McDougall six, and Lafriniere and Noah Reimer both had four solos.

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