MONROEVILLE – This time, Leo left no doubt.
The Lions rode a big first half to a 35-12 road win over Heritage on Friday.
We had that going in our heads that we were going to go out there and make sure they knew we were the better team today and make sure there were no questions left behind, said Leo senior defensive back Chandler Fields, who had an interception and a fumble recovery.
The Lions got a 13-10 win last year over the Patriots after a controversial penalty gave Leo a last chance at the game-winning field goal. It didn’t come down to a late flag this year as the Lions jumped out to a 35-0 halftime lead.
The difference for the Lions (6-0, 4-0 ACAC) this time was the defense. Leo forced the Patriots (4-2, 3-1) into six turnovers (three fumbles and three interceptions), all in the first half of Heritage’s homecoming.
They are so much bigger, stronger, faster than we are, Heritage coach Dean Lehrman said. They are by far the cream of our conference, and it shows. We didn’t help ourselves in the first half. We gave them a lot of those 35 points in the first half, but they are a great football team.
Leo remains the only unbeaten conference team and is in the driver’s seat for its fifth straight conference title after sharing with Heritage and Garrett last year.
The defense played really well, Leo coach Jared Sauder said. We came into the game knowing they could throw the ball, and the quarterback (Branson Dossen) was a real threat. From the get-go, the defense just played a great game. We took the next step to an ACAC championship, and our two goals are to improve every week and win a conference championship. Then we will see what happens in the postseason.
Zach Stoner and Jordan Eldridge also had interceptions for the Lions. There were 10 turnovers, with the Lions losing two fumbles and getting intercepted twice.
This is one of our best games defensively, Stoner said. The turnovers led to our momentum and gave us the drive to keep going on.
Leo exploited a size advantage up front, which led to a lot of pressure on Dossen, who finished 16 of 30 for 203 yards but with most of the yards and a touchdown pass coming late when the outcome was all but decided. He also threw three interceptions.
Our defense prides ourselves on playing physical and playing fast, Fields said. They went out there and executed and made plays happen. Our guys put unbelievable pressure upfront. They are monsters, and they go hard every play.
The Lions had 450 rushing yards and no passing yards. Logan Leiter had 197 yards and three touchdowns, while Jordan Hissong finished with 166 yards and two scores. The Lions had three touchdowns called back because of a penalty.