By Josh Brown
BRANDT — In its first four games, Bethel hadn’t had anyone else push back.
Friday night, Miami East pushed back.
Vincent Villella had 100 yards and two touchdowns rushing before halftime and Justin Brown threw a 50-yard halfback pass for a touchdown as the Vikings scored 22 unanswered points to begin Friday night’s showdown atop the Cross County Conference, and Miami East held on for a 50-29 victory over the previously-undefeated Bees.
Bethel (4-1, 2-1 CCC) had been outscoring opponents by an average of 56-14.3 entering Friday night’s game and sat in the No. 3 spot in the Division VI, Region 24 playoff standings, while Miami East (4-1, 3-0 CCC) — which came into the night at No. 5 in the D-V, Region 20 standings — was coming off of an emotional 27-26 victory at Fort Loramie the previous week.
“We felt good coming in,” Miami East coach Max Current said. “I told my guys that they haven’t had any adversity. We’ve had adversity. So let’s give them some adversity and see how they respond.
“We got up 22-0 and they came down and scored right before the half. But we answered every call they gave us in the second half. We didn’t go into coast mode. We answered them every time.”
“It’s just one game,” Bethel coach Scott Clodfelter said. “They came out and played very well, and we didn’t play very well. We had a couple of first downs to start the game, but then they came out and scored, took the momentum. Offensively, we had a slow start.”
Behind the rushing of quarterback Jacob Evans and running back Caleb South, the Bees showed the ability to move the ball against the Viking defense on the game’s opening drive, pushing past midfield before turning the ball over on downs at the Miami East 46. But The Vikings responded, taking the ball 54 yards in eight plays to cash in their first possession. Villella did the heavy lifting on the drive with three carries of 10 or more yards, including breaking three tackles and slipping through the middle of the line on an 18-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 Miami East with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
Villella then intercepted a pass at the East 27-yard line on third-and-long, and the Vikings made short work of 73 yards on three plays. Justin Brown hit Blaine Brokschmidt in stride on a halfback pass play, with Brokschmidt on the receiving end of a 50-yard touchdown that made the score 14-0 with 1:46 in the quarter, and that’s where the score remained going into the second.
“That was a nice call by coach (Kevin) Evans,” Current said of the play. “We’ve been practicing it, and Justin threw a nice spiral. In practice, it was kind of wobbly. But that was a nice play. They were screaming up, and Blaine was wide open. That’s one of those type of things where you just want him to get it close enough where he can pull it in, and he did. That knocked some air out of them.”
The Miami East defense forced a turnover on downs on its own 35-yard line, but the Bethel defense got its first stop of the night by forcing a three-and-out. The Bees stalled and turned it over on downs again, though, and the Vikings proceeded to go 67 yards in 10 plays,with Villella breaking through on a 20-yard touchdown run and Justin Brown running in a two-point try to give East a 22-0 lead with 3:04 left until halftime.
Bethel finally got its offense going, with Evans hitting South and Travis Durst on screen passes of 23 and 16 yards to get things going. South then finished off the last 17 yards of the 11-play, 69-yard drive with three straight carries, the last one a 6-yard touchdown that put the Bees on the board, leaving the score 22-7 East at halftime.
The Vikings wasted no time extending the lead in the second half, too. A 24-yard run by Brown with a horse collar penalty tacked onto the end set East up at the 12, and two carries later Villella cashed in his third touchdown of the night on a 3-yard run to make it 29-7 with 10:30 left in the third. East then recovered a Bethel fumble at midfield and converted the short field in three plays, with Brown finishing off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run that left the score 36-7 Vikings with 6:58 left in the third.
“Vincent, he goes hard,” Current said. “I can’t ever fault his effort. A lot of that is effort things, just breaking tackles. And Justin was breaking some tackles, too. We ran the ball well.”
On the ensuing drive, though, the Bees took away the danger of the running clock by putting together a nine-play, 61-yard touchdown drive. Evans hit Kendal James for a 27-yard slant play to start things off, then on third-and-goal Evans rolled out and connected with Travis Durst on a 7-yard touchdown pass. Durst then ran in a two-point try, and Bethel trailed 36-15 with 3:01 remaining in the third.
But Miami East responded once again, taking the ball 58 yards in six plays with Kaleb Nickels punching in a 16-yard touchdown run to put the Vikings up 43-15 at the end of three. But Bethel’s Jacob Ullmer broke a 35-yard run and South converted with a 7-yard touchdown run and carried in the two-point try, getting the Bees back to within 20 at 43-23 with 10:43 to play.
Villella punched in his fourth touchdown of the night from 1 yard out with 8:04 remaining to put Miami East up 50-24. And with 4:07 to play, the Viking defense forced a turnover on downs at its own 19 to finally wrap things up. Evans hit Ullmer for one last 65-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 50-29 with 44.6 seconds, but by then it was too late.
“It’s just one out of 10 games,” Clodfelter said. ” I thought our kids played hard, and we didn’t have any quit in us. Miami East is a good program. This showed us the things we need to work on to reach our goals, and I know we can do it. We just did a poor job executing our gameplan, but we’ll be better next week. All this means is that we’re not going to be undefeated.”
In Week 6, Miami East hosts Covington in another key CCC showdown, while Bethel travels to Arcanum.
“Covington is battle tested,” Current said. “They’re a battle-tested team. So we’re going to focus on the Buccs this week.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.