Tipp proves its superiority in the run game, again, powering past Milton Union in the final game of a generations-long series…the battle as some will remember it, of route 571.
By Greg Billing
Tipp City – About eight miles separate Tipp City and West Milton along State Route 571.
The distance in football has proven greater, especially in recent seasons.
Mainly for that reason the Miami County rivals ended their Battle of 571 series Friday night at Tipp City Park. The final game went down as the previous seven did – a Tippecanoe Red Devils’ victory.
Tipp (3-0) overcame an out-of-synch start to score a decisive 49-14 victory over Milton-Union (2-1). The victory gave Tipp a record-tying eighth straight win in the series, matching the same streak from 1940-46, and the overall series lead at 44-37.
“Milton is a pretty good team,” said Tipp junior running back Cole Barhorst, who rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. “They always used to beat us in the past. I’m glad we could bring it back for the past (Tipp) teams.”
Tipp won the first game ever played between the two towns, 24-0 on Oct. 7, 1921. Those gridders would have been proud of what the 2016 version did Friday night.
The Red Devils rushed for 360 yards on 48 attempts and rolled up 403 yards in total offense. The defense held the Bulldogs to 66 yards rushing on 33 carries and 148 yards passing (214 total yards).
Milton – seeking its first win against Tipp in 10 years – entered the game with no turnovers. That streak ended on Milton’s first drive with a lost fumble, the first of five on Friday. A sixth turnover came on an interception.
“(Tipp) made some great plays and they were swarming to the ball,” Milton-Union coach Mark Lane said. “We gave up the ball and you can’t do that and win football games. We thought we had some things we could do. When you get behind like we did, it really hurt us.”
Tipp’s first score came on a fumble recovery – a Red Devils’ fumble, however – as quarterback Aaron Hughes’ lost the ball on a hit just shy of the goal line. Junior offensive lineman Grant Carlson won a scrum at the bottom of the pile in the end zone for a touchdown. Carlson said he wrestled the ball away from a Milton player as officials separated the bodies two minutes into the game.
“Getting it was kind of hard because the Milton guy had it in the end zone and I had to pull it out of his arms. I was just focused on the ball,” Carlson said of his first career touchdown at any level. “I’ve only been playing six years. I finally did it my senior year. It feels great.”
Milton tied it 7-7 with 5:21 left in the first quarter when senior quarterback Zach Vagedes hit senior Blake Smith in stride down the Milton sideline for the 42-yard score.
Though Tipp’s offense struggled early, once it got going there was no slowing it down. Barhorst’s 10-yard run with 2:08 left in the quarter gave Tipp the lead for good at 14-7. It was also the start of 42 unanswered points.
“Definitely nerves,” Tipp coach Joel Derge said. “We told these guys there were some tight games in this series. We expected a dog fight and it was one early.”
Junior lineman-turned-fullback Matt Garber bulled his way in from two-yards out early in the second quarter (21-7). One play after Tipp recovered a fumble, Barhorst scored on a 28-yard TD run (28-7). Quenten Williams capped the first half with a 16-yard TD run (35-7).
In the second half, Barhorst broke loose with an 87-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. He took the hand off of the right side, broke a tackle at the line and out-sprinted a trio of Bulldogs defenders who were just out of reach.
“They almost caught me last week. This week I had a little bit of room,” Barhorst said of his 84-yard TD run against Shawnee last week. “I think they were pretty tired. I was tired too. As I walked back to the sideline I was gassed.”
Sophomore Mason Doll capped Tipp’s scoring with a 15-yard run to start the fourth quarter.
Milton-Union sophomore Connor Gostomsky pulled Milton to 49-14 with 4:21 left to play.
“I came into Tipp football not really knowing anything about rivalries,” Carlson said. “Now it’s a big deal and it feels great to end this rivalry with a win. … Our team
motto is ‘Prove It.’ So far we’ve been doing it.”
Friday’s meeting was the 81st between Tipp and Milton. And just like that eight-mile stretch of State Route 571 there were a few curves along the way.
Milton dominated the series from 1970 to 1991 with a 17-5 record. The Bulldogs also won a series-record 11 straight from 1965-75. The teams routinely battled for Southwestern Buckeye League titles back in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s.
But since 1992, Tipp has rattled off a 19-3 record. The past eight games have been a one-way road to victory for the Red Devils. Tipp has won the last eight by an average score of 35-10.
Milton’s last win was 28-21 in 2006. The programs took a two-year hiatus from playing until meeting again in 2009. Resuming the series doesn’t seem as promising this time.
“Both schools are going a different direction as far as population,” Lane said. “Back in the day Northmont used to be a big rival with Milton. That’s one is over too because of the same reason.”
Despite the recent success against Milton, Derge made sure his Red Devils knew the series history and how tough the Bulldogs have been.
“We try to teach them the history of how Milton owned the 1970s and 80s,” Derge said. “It means something to these kids. Shawnee is one of our big rivals too, so to have them back to back is tough.
“I think it’s a good rivalry. The gate’s always good. The crowd is always nice. The kids get excited for Milton every year and I know Milton feels the same way. We’ll replace them on the schedule next year, but the rivalry means a lot to both communities.”
Barhorst wasn’t the only one with a hand in Tipp’s win. As many Red Devils’ running backs carried the ball as the on-site Kona Ice truck had flavors for its shaved ice treats. Seniors Quenten Williams (56 yards) and Nyles Anderson (34) were among 11 Red Devils that carried the ball.
Defensively, the Red Devils’ held the Bulldogs to 144 yards under their rushing average.
Tipp attempts to keep it going next week as it enters Greater Western Ohio Conference play at Trotwood-Madison (2-1). The teams met in the Division III playoffs last season, a 33-19 Trotwood win.