By Josh Brown
TROY — Miami East needed only a win to clinch a share of the Cross County Conference championship.
Instead, the Vikings sent a message.
Miami East (8-1, 6-0 CCC) put Friday’s Senior Night game against visiting Tri-County North (4-5, 4-4 CCC) out of reach by the end of the first quarter and went into the second half with the mercy rule already in effect, steamrolling their way past the Panthers in a dominant 42-0 showing in Casstown.
“It feels pretty good,” said Miami East coach Max Current when asked how it felt to be league champions again. The Vikings last won in 2015, sharing the title with Covington. “This is only the fifth league title in school history, and our senior class is the first class to be two-time champions. So they’ve got some pretty good bragging rights as a class after tonight.”
The Vikings began their first four offensive possessions of the game in Tri-County North territory and used only nine plays from scrimmage in the first quarter to take a 21-0 lead. Three plays after Justin Brown recovered a third-down fumble on the Panther 40-yard line, he finished the drive on the other side of the ball by breaking off a 30-yard touchdown run, making the score 6-0 Vikings with 9:00 still on the clock.
On the Panthers’ first play of the ensuing drive, senior Alex Dinardo intercepted a pass by quarterback Brian Stinson, setting East up at the North 43-yard line. And even back-to-back holding penalties couldn’t hold the Vikings back, as Brown weaved his way through his downfield blockers on a 27-yard touchdown run, with Caleb Nickels barreling through the middle of the line for the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 6:28 left in the first.
Then it was the defense’s turn. With the Panthers facing third-and-21 from their own 41, Viking senior Austin Kearns nailed Stinson with a blindside sack to force fourth-and-30. And on the punt try, the snap went sailing over the punter’s head — and Kearns was there to scoop up the ball and fall forward two yards into the end zone for a touchdown to make it 21-0 with 1:34 left in the quarter.
“He had a nice series there,” Current said of Kearns. “He had the big sack the play before, then Brendan Dalton cleaned up a guy for him and he rumbled into the end zone. That’s a great series on Senior Night. And another senior, Alex Dinardo, had a pick. The seniors did a nice job on their night, and the team rallied around them.
“We got a couple of turnovers early, had that little scoop and score on a bad punt snap. That set the tone at the beginning of the game, and it carried over from there. We talked to the guys about getting out fast and getting up.”
The Panthers then went for it on fourth-and-2 from the East 49-yard line, only to have the quarterback keeper stuffed by the Vikings’ Colt Frazier, Aaron Lawrence and Lance Rohrbach, giving the ball back to East on the Tri-County North 49. A third-and-6 draw play to Nickels went for 20 yards into the red zone, and Nickels finished off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to make it 28-0 with 8:22 remaining until halftime.
The Viking defense forced another punt, only this time to have the snap be too low for the punter to handle, setting East up at the Panther 28. Brown broke off a 25-yard run before being pushed out of bounds and finished the drive on the next play with a 3-yard touchdown to make it 35-0 with 5:52 left in the second quarter, and that’s where things remained at halftime.
Vincent Villella put the only score of the second half on the board with a 15-yard touchdown run with 8:49 remaining in the third quarter, and the Vikings ran out the clock from there.
Brown finished with 125 yards and three touchdowns on only eight carries to lead the way for the Vikings. Villella added 63 yards on 11 carries and Nickels had 22 yards on three carries, with both scoring a touchdown.
Miami East travels to Twin Valley South in Week 10, needing only a win to clinch the CCC championship outright. The last outright championship for the Vikings came in 2008.
“It’s a nice accomplishment,” Current said. “Now we just have to stay focused and go out and be undisputed champions.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.