CLARKS — You could almost sense what kind of first half the Howells-Dodge Jaguars and the High Plains Storm were going to play after just the first few offensive snaps of the D1 state football playoff game Thursday night in Clarks.
The two teams combined for 80 points in an explosive first half and 124 total points in a game that wasn’t for the defensive gurus in the crowd.
But in the end, High Plains came away with an 84-40 win over Howells-Dodge. Storm running back Josh DeMers ran wild all night, and accounted for seven total touchdowns — six on the ground and one receiving.
The game even started with fireworks — on defense, first.
After two runs from the Jags on their opening drive, quarterback Tyler Polacek threw a pass that was picked off by High Plains defensive back Tyson Fate.
That was followed by a one-play scoring drive when DeMers took his handoff out of a shotgun set and rumbled 16 yards for a touchdown.
After forcing a Jags punt after that, Storm quarterback Thomas Young ran for a 9-yard score to put his team ahead 14-0.
Th fireworks continued, but this time for the Jags. On the first play after the Storm kickoff, Polacek scooted around the left side of his offensive line and sprinted 70 yards for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 14-6.
Not to be outdone, DeMers took to the ground — again on the first play of the series — and took it 65 yards for his second score of the game. That gave the Storm a 21-6 lead just six minutes into the game.
After Fate picked off his second pass of the game, momentum seemed to be all in the Storm’s corner. But again — on the first play of the series — all that changed.
Young fumbled the exchange to a teammate and Polacek snatched it from the grass and took it back the 27 yards for the Jags’ second score of the game.
That turnover wasn’t the last for High Plains, however.
Yet again, on the Storm’s first play of the series, Young fumbled the ball — again — and Jags’ Ryan Macholan recovered.
That led to the Jags’ first lead of the game when Polacek crossed the goal line four plays later from 3 yards out to give his team a 22-20 lead with just 7 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Jags, now with all the momentum, tried to capitalize on it, and they did.
On the ensuing kickoff, they attempted an onside kick and recovered it. That led to a 23-yard touchdown catch from Polacek to teammate Luke Renter. That score gave H-D a 28-20 early in the second quarter.
High Plains responded right away on the next possession. And guess who — DeMers — tied the game at 28 after he caught a pass and ran 60 yards for the touchdown.
The Storm defense stopped the Jags on a key fourth-down play deep in High Plains’ territory on the next possession, and used that stop to score another touchdown. That was the key moment in the game.
High Plains used a steady dose of runs from Young and Demers, but it was Young who broke out for a 20-yard score.
Another Storm defensive stop followed, and another Storm touchdown run did, too.
After a DeMers 28-yard catch to start the drive, Young rattled off another scoring run, this one from 5 yards out, to give his team a 44-28 lead with 3:10 left in the first half.
High Plains got the ball back one more time in the first half, and it only took two plays to score. DeMers sprinted 60 yards for the score to give the Storm a 52-48 halftime lead.
The scoring continued in the second half, but the game never became close.
DeMers scored three more touchdowns in the second half off runs of 54, 6 and 49 yards. Kyle Stevens got in on the fun in the fourth quarter when he found enough room to zip 65 yards for the game’s last score.
Howells-Dodge scored twice in the second half. Zach Bayer recorded a 33-yard touchdown while Renter took a handoff for a 1-yard touchdown.
DeMers scored six touchdowns and one scoring reception of 60 yards in the win. He had touchdown runs of 16, 65, 40, 54, 6, and 49 yards.
High Plains improves to 7-2 on the season while Howells-Dodge moved to 3-6 and has its season end.
The Storm will play No. 14 seed Heartland (4-4) or No. 3 seed East Butler (8-0) Wednesday November 4.