WEST JEFFERSON – West Jefferson seemed up to the task of competing with Mechanicsburg when the Indians rolled into town Friday night. But they didn’t have Kaleb Romero. The big senior ran rampant for the visitors, running around and over anyone in his way en route to a 49-18 Mechanicsburg victory.
After an early lead by West Jefferson, the game turned on an 82-yard scoring scamper by Romero with 3:30 left in the second quarter. It was his third touchdown of the half and came on the first play of the drive, sucking the wind out of the home team after a good punt.
The Roughriders had opened the game with a long touchdown drive capped by a 16-yard pass that gave the home team a lead and nearly caused a vein to pop in Mechanicsburg Coach Kurt Forrest’s neck.
“I’ve got to be a better job of coaching the guys and having them ready to go coming out,” Forrest said.
Romero and the offense quickly went to work, with the standout quarterback scoring from 66 yards out a few plays in to answer the call.
From there, the Indians’ defense bent but didn’t break, allowing several first downs but no real damage for much of the first half.
Meanwhile, Romero and the Indians broke the Roughriders again and again.
Dustin Knapp ripped off a big run on the team’s second drive, setting up what ended up being a Romero scramble for a touchdown from about 15 yards out. Romero checked over his options, ducked out of the outstretched arms of a pass rusher and broke from the pocket to his left, outrunning a couple of defenders and breaking away from another to score near the pylon.
After a quick drive stalled out for the ’Riders, Romero broke off the aforementioned 88-yarder and the Indians were in control.
Late in the first half, West Jefferson was able to force a safety to make it 21-9 and then combined a big pass play with a penalty to secure a field goal and make it 21-12 before the half expired.
That little bit of life was short-lived for the Roughriders, as Knapp snapped off a pair of big runs on the opening drive of the second half and scored on a short power run to extend the lead to 28-12.
Immediately after, a West Jefferson fumble got scooped up and run into the end zone from 13 yards out by Romero for another touchdown, giving the Indians a 34-12 lead after a missed extra point.
“That was kind of the dagger. At the end of the day, we’ve got to play up to our ability, and that’s on me,” Forrest said.
Romero scored again on the Indians’ next possession, bouncing off tacklers and turning what would have been a loss in the box into a long touchdown after he found the corner. That score activated the running clock after Knapp converted the two-point conversion, making it 42-12.
“We are barely scratching the surface of what this group is capable of. It’s about each of us showing up to work every day,” Forrest said.
The backups started the fourth quarter for Mechanicsburg, with Joey Mascadri breaking off a 30-yard run for a touchdown with nine minutes left in the game.
West Jefferson answered with a 43-yard pass play for a score with 6:42 remaining, but it was too little, too late. The point after went awry and the Indians led 49-18.
The Roughriders continued to keep their starters in and pushed for another score, but the Indians turned them away from the end zone on fourth down with 18 seconds left to secure the win.
Romero finished with 210 yards and 4 touchdowns on just six rushing attempts. Knapp had 107 yards on nine carries with a score.
Lance Lambert was 19-of-26 passing for 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns for West Jefferson.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.