NEWELL - One fumble is aggravating. Two is enough to send a clipboard skipping across the sideline. Three forces players into hiding.
And four fumbles, well, four signals the most dreaded of football nightmares, which is precisely what Northeast Hamilton experienced firsthand on Friday.
Already facing a climb up the mountain because of injuries and the fact they were facing second-ranked (Class 8-man) Newell-Fonda, the Trojans planned their own funeral with five first-half turnovers - four were fumbles - and six in all in a 56-0 loss to the Mustangs in District 2 action.
It was Northeast Hamilton's first shutout loss since it made the transition to the 8-man game at the start of the 2004 season.
NEH (1-3, 0-2) coughed it up on the opening kickoff, on a punt, and on another kickoff in the first quarter alone. Newell-Fonda (4-0, 2-0) turned those three mistakes into 21 points - part of a five-touchdown quarter that allowed the Mustangs to put it on cruise control the remainder of the way.
"Newell-Fonda is very good and I'll be surprised if they're not at least a state semifinalist, but we just weren't mentally in it," NEH head coach John Seiser said after his team lost its third straight game. "In the first quarter it looked like somebody had shot our dog."
N-F - Jonathan Johnson 16 run (Roberto Torres kick), 11:52.
N-F - Rigo Johnson 42 run (Torres kick), 6:53.
N-F - Zak Sievers 8 run (Torres kick), 6:02.
N-F - R. Johnson 21 run (Torres kick), 3:44.
N-F - J. Johnson 52 run (Torres kick), 1:26.
N-F - Dalton Anderson 38 pass from Sievers (Torres kick), 9:17.
N-F - Anderson 28 pass from Sievers (Torres kick), 7:07.
N-F - Anderson 53 INT return (Torres kick), 3:17.
Rushing - NEH: Gabe Rapp 18-48, Andy Pate 6-13, Kyler Rapp 3-14, Logan Seiser 2-3. N-F: Jonathan Johnson 8-122, Rigo Johnson 4-76.
Passing - NEH: Seiser 1-6-2 50. N-F: Zak Sievers 8-11-0 118.
Receiving - N-F: Dalton Anderson 3-64. NEH: Austin Smith 1-50.
Tackles (leaders only) - NEH: Rapp 8, A. Smith 7 1/2.
The Mustangs led 42-0 at the intermission.
NEH played without starting quarterback and leading rusher Tyler Smith, who suffered concussion-like symptoms a week earlier in a 52-12 loss to West Bend-Mallard. The hits kept coming in Friday's first quarter when senior Andy Olson - the Trojans' top offensive lineman - came off the field with an injured shoulder. He didn't return.
"I'm not saying we would have won had Tyler played, but it definitely would have helped," Seiser said. "And losing Andy didn't help either."
NEH finished with just 128 yards of total offense, 78 coming on the ground. Gabe Rapp churned out 48 yards on 18 carries.
Logan Seiser moved from tight end to quarterback and completed 1 of 6 passes. He connected with wide receiver Austin Smith on a 50-yard strike.
Jonathan Johnson rumbled for 122 ground yards and two touchdowns for the Mustangs. He scored on runs of 16 and 52 yards in the first quarter.
Rigo Johnson reached the end zone on scampers of 42 and 21 yards in the game's initial period, and he notched 76 yards on just four totes.
Dalton Anderson reeled in touchdown passes of 38 and 28 yards from quarterback Zak Sievers, and Anderson also returned an interception 53 yards to the house.
Sievers made good on 8 of 11 throws for 118 yards.
Rapp led NEH defensively with eight tackles, while Austin Smith had 7 1/2. They both collected four solo stops.