Eudora Nathan Gardner is back. And how.
Gardner ran for three touchdowns -- including an electrifying 68-yard bolt -- and threw a 65-yard TD pass to Luke Pickett as McLouth buried Eudora, 42-8, in Class 3A district football Friday night.
Gardner, a senior running back, missed the first game of his career last week. The 5-foot-7, 165-pounder sat out the Bulldogs' 21-6 loss to Troy with a deep thigh bruise suffered the week before against Jackson Heights.
``I'd say he was about 95 percent tonight,'' McLouth coach Gerard Aligo said. ``He still had a little tenderness. We were watching him. He's had a great career and we didn't want it to end early.''
Gardner's game ended after three quarters Friday when Aligo pulled the regulars after McLouth's lead soared to 42-0. Still, Gardner gained 242 yards -- he'd been averaging about 170 a game -- on 24 carries.
``It held together better than I thought,'' Gardner said of his injury.
Before kickoff, Gardner had some doubts, then he gained 15 yards on his first carry.
``I was kinda testing it out,'' he said, ``and once I knew I could handle it I gave it everything I had.''
McLouth jumped to a 2-0 lead midway through the first quarter when Eudora quarterback Nick Warren's pitch to Jeremy Roubison went awry and Roubison fell on it in the end zone for a safety.
Less than two minutes later, McLouth pushed its lead to 9-0 when Gardner scored from 2 yards out. Then Eudora's defense stiffened.
Two big plays by Gardner before intermission were like kicks in the Cardinals' stomachs. With 6:20 left before halftime and McLouth facing a third and one at its own 32, Gardner bolted up the middle, vaulted a defender and suddenly was racing downfield.
``I broke through and saw our center knock their guy down and I jumped over him and all of a sudden I was all by myself,'' Gardner said.
That 68-yard gallop pushed the Bulldogs' lead to 16-0, and Gardner wasn't through. With only 19 seconds remaining before intermission, Scot Kesinger intercepted a Warren pass at the McLouth 35.
On first down, Gardner took off to his right, ostensibly to run, but abruptly he pulled up and hurled a pass into the hands of streaking end Luke Pickett. That 65-yard scoring play with just :13 showing gave the `Dogs a 23-0 bulge.
McLouth scored three more times in the third quarter -- one an 11-yard run by Gardner -- before Aligo sent in the subs against the winless (0-7) Cards.
Friday's victory gave the Bulldogs, 3-4, momentum going into their remaining district games against Pleasant Ridge and Leavenworth Immaculata.
McLouth also spoiled Eudora's homecoming. Bryan Cribbs and Kari Neis were named homecoming king and queen respectively.