PORTAGEVILLE -- One would not have to look hard to find who stood out for the Kennett Indians Friday. The only problem might be finding just one.
Would you choose Ben Howard, who ran for 200 yards and three second-half touchdowns on 19 carries?
Or Mario McGraw, who had three catches for 79 yards and a first-half TD to spark the Tribe?
Or defensive end Danny Merritt, whose 31-yard fumble return for a score in the third quarter broke the game open?
It doesn't matter. The Indians were just happy to get their first victory of the season, a 42-0 rout of the Portageville Bulldogs here Friday night.
"It feels great," Howard said after the game. "That's all I can say -- it feels great."
After Kennett (1-3) struggled to take a 6-0 lead to the locker room, it didn't take the Tribe long to put the game away after coming back onto the field in the second half.
"(I) just tried to light a little bit of a fire in them," Kennett coach Kirk Welch said of his halftime speech. "We weren't playing well. We came out doing the same stuff we did the first three week. I told them it's time to quit doing that stuff. First week or two, you can understand it, but it's time to grow up, be men and take responsibility for how you're playing. I just tried to get through to them that way."
It worked, as the Indians took command from the start in the third quarter.
Demetrius Childress returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the Bulldogs' 39-yard line and it took the Tribe just five plays and less than three minutes to find paydirt when Howard went in from six yards out to make it 12-0 in favor of Kennett with 9:14 left in the third quarter.
Howard had a huge third quarter, running for 121 yards and two scores on 12 carries.
"I just felt like we stepped up and we blocked," Howard said. "I did my part; everybody did theirs. That's how I feel."
The Indians only had to wait 15 seconds to get back in the end zone when Merritt picked up a loose lateral and returned it 31 yards for a TD.
Wesley Jackson ran in the two-point conversion on a fake extra point to make it a 20-0 game.
"I've been patiently waiting," Merritt joked about his touchdown. "I feel happy. It was a heads-up play anyway..."
After holding Portageville to a three-and-out on its next series, the Tribe took over at its own 47 and needed just five plays to score, finding the goal line on a 21-yard run by Howard with 4:54 left in the third period. Johnny McNabb's PAT staked Kennett to a 27-0 lead.
Kennett put the mercy rule in effect with 10:31 left in the game when Howard scored on a 20-yard run. Quarterback Blake Parr ran in the conversion to give the Tribe a 35-0 lead and bring on the continuously running clock.
Howard dominated the second half, running for 164 yards on 15 totes after the break.
"We've still got some things to polish up with him on, but he was hitting the hole a lot better," Welch said. "We still got to get rid of those fumbles that he's making. All of his fumbles -- (there is) still no excuse for them -- but all of his fumbles basically come off second and third effort, which we like that. But, at the same time, you still got to take care of the ball."
The Indians capped the scoring when Childress broke loose for a 54-yard run with 2:11 left on the clock. McNabb's extra point set the final score.
After struggling to get its running game going in the first quarter, Kennett went to the air in the second to get on the board.
Parr hooked up with McGraw for a 35-yard completion -- his first catch of the season -- to get down to the Bulldogs' 10-yard line midway through the first quarter. After a run for a three-yard loss, a delay of game penalty and two incompletions brought up fourth-and-goal from the 18, Parr hit McGraw on a scoring strike with 5:15 left in the half for a 6-0 lead.
After struggling in the Indians' three losses, McGraw broke out Friday.
"Man, I've just been waiting on the ball patiently and just waiting 'til we get this chance to break loose," McGraw said. "It happened tonight. I mean, everything didn't go our way -- we had a few bad plays -- but we bounced back from them."
Said Welch: "He's finally starting to make some plays. We just got to keep going with him. He's the kind of kid and a player that can step up and make big plays like he did tonight. There's no reason why he shouldn't be able to do that night in and night out."
While the offense was lighting up the scoreboard in the second half, the defense pitched Kennett's first shutout of the season.
"They've been playing well," Welch said. "Our offense has just been putting them in a hole and then they've been on defense most of the time.
Tonight they came up with a couple of big plays and we kind of got settled down.
"We've got to quit banking on our defense carrying us through a half. We've got to be able to come out on all three phases of the game and put things together right from the get-go, because (when) we get into district play, we're not going to be able to do that."
Parr finished the night 5-of-14 passing for 92 yards and a score, while Justin Coleman added two catches for 13 yards and Tevin Hampton ran for 12 yards on four carries.
The Indians return to action Oct. 6 when they travel up Highway 25 to take on Malden, which lost 35-6 to Dexter Friday night.
Still, the Tribe can savor this week's victory for a day or two.
"Oh man, it feels great," McGraw said. "We're going to have a good ride back home. We got to build off this. We got to work hard next week and play hard."