By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Miami East knows exactly what it’s playing for.
They’ve been doing it since Week 6.
“We knew, starting with Bethel, that we had a really tough stretch of games coming up,” Miami East coach Max Current said. “Week 11 is on the line each and every week. We’ve known that.”
Friday night, the Vikings solidified their grasp on a place in Week 11 — but they still need help in the race for a second straight league title.
Miami East’s Dakota Brown forced a fumble out of bounds for a safety for the game’s first score early in the second quarter, and the Vikings rode that advantage to a 15-0 halftime lead Friday night. Tri-County North fought back in the second half, but Arron Adams ran for a fourth-quarter score and threw for another to put away a critical 36-22 victory at home to keep the Vikings alive in the Cross County Conference race and the playoff chase.
Miami East improved to 6-2 on the season with the win and 6-1 in CCC play, remaining one game behind undefeated Covington, which avoided an upset against Twin Valley South with a dominant 38-16 win to maintain its lead. Tri-County North, meanwhile, fell to 4-4 and 4-2 in CCC play, dropping to third place in the league.
“It was a good team effort,” Current said. “I was very pleased with the blocking on our O-line, and even our backs and receivers blocking the edges. And defensively, we tackled a lot better. I was worried about their big fullback (Tanner Booth), because he’s been running over people all year long, breaking tackles and stuff. But we held him in check. It was a good victory.
“We usually have good battles with North. Since we’ve been in the league, before tonight, we were six wins to five losses against North. It’s been a good rivalry between us. We knew we were going to have a tough battle. They were 12th or 13th in the playoff standings, and if they could knock us off, we could’ve traded spots in the rankings. I knew they’d be fired up, but our boys responded very well.”
Entering the night, Miami East was in the eighth and final spot in the Division VI, Region 22 standings. With the win, the Vikings climbed up to No. 6 unofficially, while the Panthers fell to 14th.
The first quarter was a push, with the teams both trading punts on their first possession before the Vikings began driving. After taking the ball to the Panther 30-yard line, though, the Vikings fumbled it away, giving Tri-County North possession on its own 20. But the Panthers drove past midfield, only to fumble it right back on Miami East’s 37-yard line, leaving the score at 0-0 after one.
The Vikings were forced to punt from midfield, putting the Panthers back at their own 20. A holding penalty put North on its own 13, and they were forced to punt from there — but their punter was forced to jump up for a high snap just to keep it in bounds. East’s Brown pressured him and chased him down, spinning him around at the edge of the end zone … and the ball flew out of the punter’s hands, going out of bounds behind the pylon for a safety to give Miami East a 2-0 lead with 10:07 left in the first half.
The Vikings took possession on the North 43 after a solid kick return, and a clutch screen pass under pressure from sophomore quarterback Ian Gengler to Arron Adams went for 26 yards all the way down to the 1-yard line. The Vikings appeared to stall, though, as two rushes up the middle were stuffed at the line and then a false start pushed them back to the 6 for third down, but Gengler pulled down the ball on a bootleg around the right side for a 6-yard touchdown run to make it 8-0 Vikings with 6:29 left in the half.
Another holding penalty stuck Tri-County North with first-and-30 from its own 30 on the ensuing possession, and the Vikings again were given a short field, taking over on the Panther 45 with 3:19 left in the half. A 15-yard run by Levi Adducchio on third-and-1 and then big runs by both Justin Brown and Adams set up first-and-goal from the 6, and two plays later Gengler scored on a 1-yard sneak to make it 15-0 Miami East at halftime.
The Panthers got on the board early in the third quarter on a 10-yard run by Tristen Hayslett, but Miami East answered with a 9-yard Colton Frazier touchdown run to go up 22-7 with 5:26 left in the third, and that’s where things remained heading into the fourth. The Panthers scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Bo Hendrickson to Alex Kerby on the first play of the final quarter to again cut the Viking lead to eight at 22-14.
But with 7:24 to play, Adams and the Vikings had another answer, working his way in for a 14-yard touchdown to cap off an impressive drive to extend the lead to 15 again at 29-14.
“For the most part, we had (Booth) corralled, but when North did score, our guys did a great job of answering,” Current said. “There in the fourth quarter, they’d just scored to pull within eight, but we went on a drive after the kickoff. Our guys were blocking like … they haven’t blocked that well all year. You could just see it. They were getting into the opponent and driving them, and we marched it right back down the field and went up by two scores. The backs and O-line did a great job on those last two drives.”
And then with 4:19 to play the Vikings ran a trick play, with Adams hitting a wide-open Blaine Brokschmidt for an 82-yard touchdown pass to make the score 36-14.
“We’re up 15 with about four minutes to go, and their fullback comes up short on a measurement on fourth-and-1,” Current said. “So I said ‘let’s call a halfback pass!’ We’re up two scores and trying to eat some clock … and it worked just perfectly. Their safety and their corner flew up there, and Arron threw a perfect ball to Blaine, and he had enough juice to take it all the way and give us some real breathing room.”
Tri-County North’s Tanner Booth scored on a 3-yard run with 1:28 left to play, but the Vikings ran out the clock from there.
Adams finished the game with 132 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, as well as grabbing one pass for 26 yards and going 1 for 1 passing for 82 yards and the score to Brokschmidt for his only reception of the night. Adducchio had 74 yards on 14 carries, Brown had 67 yards on nine carries, Frazier had one carry for the 9-yard touchdown and Gengler had five carries for four yards and two touchdowns, as well as going 1 for 3 passing for 26 yards.
Miami East hosts Troy Christian in Week 9 in a non-league game, but a matchup with massive playoff implications. The Eagle, who knocked off Arcanum 28-21 on Friday night, currently sits in second place in the D-VII, Region 28 standings with a 7-1 record.
“Now we’ve got to refocus our efforts and bear down against a good Troy Christian team. They’re a nice ballclub,” Current said.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.