TROY, MO. • Aidan McDaniel may have had some really good games in the past at quarterback, but he would be pretty hard pressed to find one better than Friday night.
“Maybe my sophomore year at Howell Central,” the Francis Howell quarterback said of his 448-yard game when he played for Francis Howell North in 2016. “But, I’m pretty sure this was the best one. A hundred percent? That’s crazy.”
McDaniel went a perfect 21-for-21 through the air for 407 yards and six touchdowns as the Vikings rolled to a 56-21 win over Troy in a GAC South game at Troy’s John R. Lawrence Sports Complex.
“The kid’s just pretty special,” Vikings coach Brent Chojnacki said. “Teams are not loading the box on us and the guy is still getting it done. He’s just a hard-working kid that really understands the game. His football IQ is just way up there.”
Howell (3-2 overall, 2-0 league) has now won three successive games after dropping its first two contests of the season.
“I think this will boost our confidence a little bit,” said Vikings senior wide receiver Daylan Dalton, who had nine catches for 211 yards and four TDs. “We had a shaky start, but this will boost us up for the rest of the games coming up.”
Run-heavy Troy (3-2, 0-2) rushed for 344 yards, led by Collin Nichols’ 123 yards on 23 carries. But the Trojans fell for the second straight game following a rare 3-0 start.
“We thought we were going to be able to move the football since we’ve kind of established that over the course of the season,” Troy coach Ryan Nesbitt said. “But, it’s disappointing from the defensive perspective. I didn’t think we played particularly well. But, like I told the dudes, we’ll look at it, we’ll move forward and certainly work to get better.”
The game started off in strong fashion for the Trojans, who took the opening kick and marched 80 yards in 12 plays with Nichols’ 1-yard TD run capping off an initial drive that chewed up half of the first-quarter clock.
The Vikings answered on their first drive just 2 minutes, 36 seconds later when Gideon Niboh scampered in from seven yards out.
“We want to score and we want to score fast and that’s what we did,” Chojnacki said. “We’ve got some guys that are serious playmakers on the offensive side of the ball — both sides of the ball, really — and we told them before the game to just go out and just make plays.”
Forced to punt on its next possession, Troy had a bad snap on the punt and Francis Howell was set up first-and-goal at the 9-yard line. Two plays later, Dalton had his first TD catch of the night as the Vikings took the lead for good at 14-7.
McDaniel hooked up with Jackson Hetzel on a 27-yard score and Drew Scheer on a 29-yarder to give Francis Howell 28 straight points and a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
“Every single one of them are amazing. The best wide receivers I’ve ever played with,” McDaniel said of his receiving corps. “I’m just blessed to have such good people and a good environment around me.”
Trojans quarterback Kendall Hutchison sliced the lead in half with a 58-yard TD run, but McDaniel connected with Dalton again just before halftime for a 35-14 lead.
“The three things we were focusing on this ballgame were not beating ourselves on offense with penalties and turnovers, minimizing the big plays on defense and playing well in the kicking game,” Nesbitt said. “I didn’t feel like, particularly in the first half, that we did very well at any of those three and so it was no surprise the scoreboard was the way it was.”
Any drama that may have been left in the game vanished on the first play of the second half when Dalton took a screen pass and raced 68 yards down the sideline for a four-score lead.
“We wanted to see how they were going to adjust to a different formation,” Chojnacki said.
Alzaae Walker’s 6-yard scoring run got Troy back to within 42-21 midway through the third quarter, but Niboh scored late in the third quarter and Dalton caught his fourth TD pass of the game from McDaniel early in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring on what would be the final play for the Francis Howell starters.
“Quarterback was the piece of the puzzle we were missing last year,” Dalton said. “I feel like he filled in that spot and now we have all the pieces to the puzzle and I think we can make a good run here.”