The Lehman Cavaliers not only bounced back from a difficult week one loss, but rebounded from a less than stellar first half tonight and owned most of the second half in turning back a fine Miami East team 34 to 14.
Sidney – After a 16 year hiatus, the Lehman Cavaliers and Miami East Vikings renewed a rivalry that dates back to the early 1960’s, one that encompasses the two schools’ memberships in a variety of conferences, and mostly from the now-defunct Southwest Rivers Conference. Lehman welcomed the Vikings back Friday with a tidy 34-14 win.
The Cavaliers entered the game holding a slim 16-15 series edge, thanks in large part to a eight-game winning streak against the Vikings.
Though the two schools reside in different conferences, they’re familiar with each other as they have scrimmaged for years; and both are frequent participants in the state playoffs.
As the two teams took the field at Sidney’s spectacular Memorial Stadium, the resulting action could not be more different from week one.
The Vikings come in on a high from their dominant defensive effort in shutting down Milton-Union 17–3. The “bend but don’t break” defense of head coach Max Current stopped Milton four times in the red-zone, and converted one turnover into a touchdown drive.
Meanwhile, veteran Cavalier coach Dick Roll was left wondering after yet another difficult opening loss how his troops would respond.
“We don’t spend a lot of time talking about the week one losses,” said Roll. “Four or five plays we make and it is a different outcome; we miss an interception on the last drive of the half and they end up scoring and gaining momentum. I can’t say we had a great week in practice, but I know playing before our home crowd will make a difference.”
And make a difference it did, though the Cavalier faithful were forced to wait a bit while the Cavs cleaned up a few things and put on an outstanding display of football in the second half.
In the first 24 minutes Lehman had a fumble after a long gain, a face mask penalty, and two holding penalties in the same series which nullified gains of 25 and 8 yards and an interception by the Vikings at the 5.
But the first half wasn’t devoid of excitement. With East beginning what looked to be a promising drive, Lehman’s Brandon Barhorst intercepted an Ian Gengler pass at the 40 and returned it to the East 41 with the quarter ending shortly thereafter, scoreless.
On the ensuing Cavalier drive Lehman put together their most impressive series of the game. Seven plays in, Lehman signal caller Elliot Gilardi called his own number to score the game’s first TD.
The Cavaliers seemingly had things going their way as defensive back Cameron Lee picked off the second interception of the night for Lehman, but the ensuing drive stalled. However, on the change of possession the Vikings were forced to punt from inside the 10 yard line. A fumbled snap and an alert Michael Bunkner resulted in a second TD for the Cavs and a 14-0 advantage. In his post game comments Max Current simply said, “We typically do not make these kinds of errors, and to do it at this end of the field is a back-breaker.”
However, the Vikings had plenty of gas in the tank. Taking possession with 4:39 remaining in the half, they scored on a beautifully executed wheel route from Gengler to all purpose player Justin Brown, from 23 yards out, closing the gap to 14–7 at the half.
The start of the game’s third quarter provided a hint of what fans were going to see the rest of the way.
From their own 35 the Cavaliers quickly moved into the end-zone in 5 plays, only to have the the apparent touchdown nullified by a fumble.
Buoyed by this turn of events, Miami East proceeded on a methodical seven-minute drive that resulted in a touchdown pass from Gengler to Blaine Brockschmidt, knotting the score at 14.
With 3:39 showing on the clock the Cavaliers executed a drive that would have made Bill Belichick proud. Once again, wasting no time getting to the line of scrimmage, Lehman kept the ball on the ground with Gilardi and running back Owen Smith, taking turns gashing the Viking defense. Having sucked them in with seven straight successful runs, Gilardi then unloaded a 34 yard bomb to Cameron Lee for the go-ahead score.
The Cavs then closed out the scoring after two failed East drives with a 29 yard field goal from Michael Denning and a late touchdown from Smith. The senior running back had nothing but praise for his offensive line.
“They created unbelievable seams in the second half, and with the running of Elliot, everything came together.”
Dick Roll was elated with the way the Cavs performed on both sides of the ball.
“East is a fine team with some exceptional skill people and I’m proud of how we contained them for the most part. This is a huge game for both teams, and from our standpoint, we know that Max’s team will win their share of games this year, hopefully helping to get us to where we want to go.”
Current, though disappointed, was not down. “Lehman is a good team with some good skill people of their own. I just feel we didn’t play as well as we did last week. But again, Dick has a nice team.”
The Vikings will attempt to right the ship next week as they open Cross County Conference play with National Trail, while the Cavs look to keep rolling against Graham in their final tune-up before league play.