By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — The ball may have been slippery for most of the night.
But against all odds, Arron Adams hung on at a key moment.
While falling backwards and reaching behind his own head, with a Bethel defender’s hand in his face, the Miami East senior maintained enough concentration to haul in a 30-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ian Gengler with 40 seconds remaining in the first half to give the Vikings their first lead of the game — and Miami East would never let go of it in a 28-14 victory Friday night over the Bees.
“Oh, he made a great play on the ball,” Miami East coach Max Current said. “In a tight ballgame, in good battles like this, you need guys that are going to step up and make plays. He was a contortionist going for that ball.”
The defending Cross County Conference co-champion Vikings improved to 5-1 overall and 4-0 in the league, while Bethel, which hasn’t defeated Miami East since 2006, fell to 3-3 with the loss, 1-3 in CCC play.
“We lost five turnovers,” Bethel coach Scott Clodfelter said. “We were down 21-14 with about two minutes left, had a chance to tie — and we fumbled the ball away for the fifth time. If we can clean up those turnovers, maybe this game is a different result. But I was really proud of our kids. The have an army on the sidelines over there, we’re giving up a lot of pounds to each of their guys, yet I thought we were just as physical. Our kids played well and played hard.”
Bethel, which has been drawing closer to a victory over one the CCC’s top teams in recent years, came out of the gate strong and even had chances late. The Bees took the game’s opening drive deep into Viking territory before fumbling it away, but the defense forced a quick three-and-out to get the ball right back. Bethel’s Ian Anderson broke the first play of the ensuing drive 40 yards around the right side, cutting it back toward the middle of the field to work his way into the end zone to put the Bees up 7-0 with 6:23 remaining in the first quarter.
The teams traded three-and-outs, with Miami East forcing the Bees all the way back to the 6-yard line and starting on the Bethel 33, but a fourth-and-goal pass from Gengler fell incomplete and the Bees took back over. Another stop by the Viking defense gave the ball back to Miami East at midfield, and the Vikings took six plays to tie the score, with Justin Brown scoring on a 14-yard run to tie the score with 9:55 left in the half.
The Vikings got the ball back and drove it all the way to the Bethel 3-yard line, but a fumble on third-and-goal was recovered by Noah Burrowes and returned all the way to the Bethel 45. The Bee offense again went backwards on its own possession but forced a quick three-and-out — but the Bees fumbled the ball on the first play of their own drive, giving the Vikings one last chance before the half with 1:15 left.
And with :40 on the clock, Gengler threw a ball to the back corner of the end zone from 30 yards out, and Adams made a candidate for catch of the year to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead at the break.
“You need guys that are going to step up and make plays,” Current said. “Gunnar Gearhart got us a big fumble right before that play, then Arron made a great grab on basically a jump ball. You need those plays. That was a big spark for us.”
And Adams wasn’t done — but neither were the Bees.
He broke a 40-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to give East some breathing room at 21-7, but Bethel’s Jacob Evans hit Tyler Terry with a 33-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead back to one touchdown at 21-14 with 4:35 left in the third.
The rest of the third quarter was a series of mistakes — Terry picked off a Gengler pass for the Bees with 2:20 left in the quarter, only to have the Bees fumble it right back with 1:47 remaining, and the score remained 21-14 after three.
“We fumbled seven times (though the Vikings didn’t lose all seven of them) and threw a pick — and we fumbled it twice inside the 5-yard line,” Current said. “That’s a couple scores that, if we get those, that changes the complexion of this game.”
The fourth quarter proved to be a stalemate until the final minute, when Brown scored his second touchdown of the night — a 15-yard run — to seal the victory.
For the night, Brown finished with 94 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, Levi Adducchio had 146 yards on 23 carries and Adams had 80 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Gengler was 3 for 10 passing for 48 yards with a touchdown and an interception, with Adams catching two passes for 41 yards and a score.
Evans was 10 for 23 passing for 132 yards and a score to lead the Bethel offense. Anderson had 53 yards and a touchdown on six carries and Burrowes had 29 yards on 11 carries.
“We can still use the momentum from this game, even though it was a loss,” Clodfelter said. “East is a really good football team, and we hung right there with them, were just as physical as them. I was real proud of our effort. We’ve just got to clean those turnovers up.”
“Bethel, give them credit. They played a whale of a game,” Current said. “They’ve got some nice skill players that gave us fits early and even late. You could see the effort their kids were putting in. Their players gave great effort, and they deserve credit.
“This is what you want in high school football — you want good battles like this, not 70-0. We get a lot more out of a game like this than one of those. It prepares us for the future.”
And that future will be televised, too — Miami East will travel to Covington, which routed Tri-County North 41-13 Friday night, on Thursday to battle for the CCC lead, with the Vikings and Buccaneers the only two teams left without a conference loss. The Bees, meanwhile, will host Twin Valley South on Friday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.