ASHLAND — On Friday night against California, Southern Boone's first and last plays of the first half were the same result — a kickoff return for a touchdown.
While the Eagles' offense uncharacteristically struggled in the first half against the Pintos, special teams picked up the slack to give Southern Boone a one-point lead at the break.
Then the offense got going.
The Eagles found the end zone on five straight second half possessions, four of which were Spencer Taggart touchdown passes to cruise to a 48-25 win against California.
In the first half, the Pintos outplayed the Eagles from scrimmage, scoring on a long drive on their first offensive series and then punching in a go-ahead touchdown 1.5 seconds before halftime.
But the ensuing kick, a 95-yard sideline scamper by Southern Boone's Colby Phillips, took away what momentum California had and in the end, took away the halftime cushion they would've needed to pull off the upset victory.
"Every time we got a lead, we did something to get them right back in it," California head coach Marty Albertson said. "It would've been 13-7 going into half and then they scored that touchdown. Against good teams you just can't do that."
The Pintos appeared to put the first half behind them with a long scoring drive to start the third quarter that ended with a Jacob Wolken 1-yard touchdown run. California also stopped the Eagles on fourth down on the game's next series.
But when the Pintos couldn't do anything on their next offensive series, Southern Boone got the ball back and began its offensive explosion.
The Eagles took the lead for good when Taggart found Zane Safley for 41 yards on the first of his four touchdown tosses. His other three scoring strikes went to Clay Jeffery, Kolton Schupp and Sam Stichnote.
Taggart finished the night 8-for-16 passing for 158 yards with a pick. His last four passes all went for touchdowns.
The Pintos got a nice performance under center from Wolken, who accounted for all four of their touchdowns two passes and a pair of 1-yard runs.
Wolken finished 7-for-15 for 77 yards with one interception. He was also the game's leading rusher with 139 yards on 24 carries.
With the loss, California fell to 2-5 and 2-3 in the Tri-County Conference while Southern Boone improved to 5-2 and 3-2 in the Tri-County with the win
The Pintos host Blair Oaks next week while the Eagles will visit Warsaw.