PDT Sports Writer
SCIOTOVILLE — Entering Friday’s SOC I contest, visiting Symmes Valley knew it had to be fundamentally sound in all three aspects against East to inch closer to defending its championship.
From the opening minutes of the game to the closing moments, special teams highlighted the momentum surge provided to the Vikings as they left Allard Park with a 56-14 victory over the Tartans.
“I thought that we had a very balanced game, offense, defense and special teams,” Symmes Valley coach Rusty Webb said. “I thought that we played well in all three phases. Whenever you can hold a football player the way (East quarterback Justin) Crager is, I thought we did an excellent job against him.”
After holding the Tartans (3-4, 0-2) to a three-and-out, the Vikings’ Kyle Vallance tipped a Justin Crager quick kick and gave his team the ball at the East 36 yard line. It didn’t take the Symmes Valley (6-1, 2-0) long to capitalize on the block.
On the fifth play of the drive, Tyler Rowe found the end zone from 15 yards out. He finished with 31 yards on nine rushing attempts.
“He has done an excellent job for us at the quarterback position,” Webb said. “He has done everything we’ve ever asked of him.”
The Vikings added to the lead in the quarter when Rowe’s play action drew in the Tartan defense and he was able to dump it off to Alec Herrell for a 36-yard score. Symmes Valley then went into its bag of tricks for the conversion as Rowe connected with Austin Baldwin after the team motioned into the muddle huddle.
Herrell made it 22-0 in the opening stanza when he returned a Crager punt 75 yards.
“That’s something we pride ourselves on is having good special teams,” Webb said. “I thought they played extremely well tonight.”
The punt return was one of the many back breakers for East coach Todd Gilliland’s squad.
“(The Vikings) played really well,” Gilliland said. “In the first half we made a lot of mistakes with some passes that we dropped, some mishandlings of the ball and some costly penalties at certain times. Good teams take advantage of that and (Symmes Valley) did.”
By the time both teams went into the locker room, the Vikings tacked on a pair of rushing touchdowns. Rowe pushed himself in from a yard out after he connected on a big pass play to Tanner Mays and Herrell scored with 3:55 until halftime.
Herrell opened the second half scoring with his third trip to pay dirt, this a 21-yard scamper. It was the last of his 11 totes on the evening.
The Tartans finally cracked the scoreboard midway through the fourth when Jeremy Toller plowed his way in from the Symmes Valley 5-yard-line. The Vikings responded with a Brandon Craft 3-yard finish.
On the first play from scrimmage of the ensuing drive, Chad Haddox knifed through the Symmes Valley defense for a 28-yard score. Josh Guido carried it in for the conversion to pull East to 50-14.
“In that second half, our guys did come out and they made some adjustments,” Gilliland said. “I think the big thing is they came out and they played with a little more effort.”
Not to be outdone, D.J. Miller took the kickoff 95 yards for the final score of the night. He led all rushers with 115 yards on just seven tries.
“A lot of that goes to our guys up front,” Webb said. “We have very good running backs, they are great running backs, but we’ve got some guys up front that people kind of forget about from time-to-time.”
Crager was held in check once again as he managed 34 yards rushing on 11 carries. He also threw for 72 yards on 4-of-12 passing.
“It’s no secret that Justin’s the key to our offense and teams have been able to key on him,” Gilliland said. “We have been trying to get more guys involved in the offense and Chad Haddox has done a pretty good job the past couple of weeks.”
The Vikings are halfway through the conference portion of the schedule and can clinch at least a share of the SOC I with a win next week against visiting Oak Hill. The Oaks handed visiting Notre Dame its first conference loss Friday night in a 30-7 decision.
“We know what’s in front of us but I think our kids have done an excellent job of staying focused on who we’re playing at the time,” Webb said. “Nobody wants to look ahead and we can’t look ahead.”
The Tartans will try to regroup as Grove City Christian is the opponent on Senior Night. Last year, East came back with a 44-35 win over the Eagles.
“I expect another challenge from them,” Gilliland said.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SV — Rowe 15 run (Ferguson kick) 7:19
SV — Herrell 36 pass from Rowe (Baldwin from Rowe) 1:35
SV — Herrell 75 punt return (Ferguson kick) :15.5
SV — Rowe 1 run (Ferguson kick) 10:13
SV — Herrell 22 run (kick failed) 3:55
SV — Herrell 21 run (Ferguson kick) 7:17
E — Toller 5 run (rush failed) 7:21
SV — Craft 3 run (Bare rush) 2:21
E — Haddox 28 run (Guido rush) 2:02
SV — Miller 95 kickoff return (rush failed) 1:37
First Downs 20 9
Rush Att-Yds. 45-448 35-99
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 5-4-0 12-4-0
Pass Yds. 80 72
Total Yds. 528 171
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-1
Turnovers 2 1
Punts-Avg. 0-0 5-29.2
Pen. Yds. 5-42 2-16
RUSHING: Symmes Valley — Miller 7-115, Herrell 11-66, Mays 2-59, Owens 3-55, Bare 5-44, Holbrook 5-38, Craft 4-38, Rowe 5-31, Meadows 3-6, Vallance 1-3, Thompson 1-1; East — Crager 14-34, Haddox 10-22, Toller 6-22.
PASSING: Symmes Valley — Rowe 5-4-0 80; East — Crager 12-4-0 72.
RECEIVING: Symmes Valley — Herrell 1-36, Mays 1-27, Miller 1-8, Baldwin 1-3; East — Bradford 2-44, Stiltner 1-12, Haddox 1-5.
RECORDS: Symmes Valley 5-1 (2-0); East 3-4 (0-2).