Armstrong aimed to prevent Spring Lake Park's typically potent running game from controlling the middle of the field in the teams' season opener on Thursday.

The Falcons succeeded, holding the Panthers under 110 rushing yards on 38 attempts in a 21-0 home victory.

Armstrong receiver Thai Bowman ran for two touchdowns. Nick Barrett caught a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jake Breitbach, who is just 5 ½ months removed from sustaining a torn ACL.

Meanwhile, the Falcons' defense forced seven punts, one fumble and two turnovers on downs against a Spring Lake Park team that averaged over 300 rushing yards per game last year.

"I was really proud of the way we came out physically," sixth-year Armstrong coach Jack Negen said.

Senior linebacker Dacion Francis, who had a sack and a forced fumble, said the defense focused on preventing Spring Lake Park from establishing the interior run.

"When they're [forced] to push the ball out is when they're kind of at their weak point," he said.

Offensively, Armstrong struggled much of the game, gaining 14 first downs and just over 280 yards. But the Falcons strung together three touchdown drives, including one of 11 plays and 77 yards in the second quarter that Bowman capped with a 1-yard rush.

Breitbach finished 11-for-17 passing for 145 yards and the touchdown, a 9-yard slant to Barrett in the fourth quarter.

NATE GOTLIEB