By David Fong
CASSTOWN — The Miami East football team kept its program rolling in 2017, capturing an outright Cross County Conference title and going to the playoffs for the sixth year in a row and and eighth time overall.
“It’s like I told the guys. I told them to hold their heads up high, because they have a lot to be proud of,” Miami East coach Max Current said following East’s final game of the season. “They had a season that they’ll remember the rest of their lives. The juniors and seniors became the first classes in school history to win two league championships. We got our fifth league title in school history. They’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
Miami East opened the season with a 17-3 win over Miami County rival Milton-Union. The Miami East defense kept Milton-Union out of the end zone all night, four times stopping the Bulldogs in the red zone — including forcing two turnovers inside its own 20 in the second half alone. After scoring to open the second half and break a 3-3 tie, the Vikings took one of those turnovers and turned it into a touchdown drive, putting away the victory.
Jonah Brautigam got the Vikings on the scoreboard with a field goal, then Vincent Villella added a pair of touchdowns to finish off the scoring.
Miami East suffered its lone regular season loss in Week 2, falling 31-14 to Lehman. The Cavaliers jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but East came back to tie it on Ian Gengler touchdown passes to Justin Brown and Blaine Brokschmidt. From there, though, Lehman scored 17 unanswered points to pull away for the victory.
The Vikings rebounded the following week with a 49-0 win over National Trail to open CCC play. Brown four catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns to go along with eight carries for 115 yards and a touchdown. Villella had three rushing touchdowns, while Jacob Brown added a rushing touchdown. Gengler competed 6 of 8 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Miami East beat a pair of playoff qualifiers the next two weeks, first topping Fort Loramie 27-26, then beating Bethel 50-29.
Against Fort Loramie, Miami East fell behind early, but led 13-6 at halftime thanks to a pair of touchdown runs by Villella, who finished the game with 29 carries for 148 yards. The Redskins would score three touchdowns in the second half to take a 26-13 lead.
Near the end of the third quarter, Justin Brown broke loose on a 62-yard touchdown run to cut Fort Loramie’s lead to 26-20. Brown, who finished with 14 carries for 120 yards, added another touchdown run and Brautigam booted the extra point to give Miami East a 27-26 lead. Brown and Brokschmidt added late interceptions to thwart a Fort Loramie comeback attempt.
Against Bethel, Villella had 100 yards and two touchdowns rushing before halftime and Justin Brown threw a 50-yard halfback pass for a touchdown as the Vikings scored 22 unanswered points to begin the showdown of the CCC leaders.
Villlella and Brown — who connected with Brokschmidt earlier on the touchdown pass — added touchdown runs in the third quarter to extend East’s lead to 36-7. Kaleb Nickels scored on a touchdown run and Villella added his fourth rushing score of the night for Miami East”s final points of the night.
“We felt good coming in,” Current said after the game. “I told my guys that they haven’t had any adversity. We’ve had adversity. So let’s give them some adversity and see how they respond.”
The Vikings followed that win over Bethel with a 34-26 win over 2016 CCC champion Covington. Miami East turned a one-point halftime lead into a blowout with 21 unanswered second-half points, but Covington recovered a pair of onside kicks and got all the way back to within eight before the Vikings were able to close out the win.
Down 6-0 early, East came back and tied the game on a Villella touchdown run. Villella, who finished with 24 carries for 145 yards and three touchdowns, scored again to put the Vikings up. Gengler extended the lead with a touchdown run, then Villella scored his third touchdown of the night following a Colt Frazier interception.
Justin Brown’s third interception of the night set up another touchdown run by Gengler, as East extended its lead to 34-12. East then held off Covington’s furious comeback attempt.
East would win the next three games by large margins, starting with a 55-8 homecoming win over Bradford. Villella had 106 yards on 12 carries and Justin Brown had 98 yards on 11 carries, both with two touchdowns, Jacob Brown had 66 yards and three scores on seven carries, and Tyler Kirby had 102 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
In Week 8, Miami East defeated Arcanum 42-13.
Justin Brown caught a pair of long touchdown passes from Ian Gengler, an 81-yarder and a 67-yarder, and Vincent Villella scored on a 21-yard run to make it 21-0 Miami East after one quarter. Gengler then scored on a 15-yard run of his own to make it 28-0 at the break.
Gengler then hit Villella with a 15-yard touchdown pass to begin the second half, and Villella scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth to finish off the scoring for the Vikings.
Gengler was 3 for 4 passing for 163 yards, with all three completions going for touchdowns. Brown had two catches for 148 yards and added 42 rushing yards, while Villella had 74 rushing and 15 receiving yards. Gengler added 27 yards on the ground and Kaleb Nickels had 32 rushing yards.
The Vikings clinched a share of the CCC title in Week 9 with a 42-0 win over Tri-County North. Justin 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.
East won the conference title outright in Week 10 with a 7-0 win over Twin Valley South. Villella led the Vikings with 186 rushing yards on 26 carries and Justin Brown added 43 yards on 15 carries as East racked up 248 yards on the ground. But the game’s only score came on a pass as Gengler connected with Matt Welker for a 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter — and the defense did the rest.
The Vikings’ season came to an end in the Division V regional quarterfinals with a 27-25 loss to Cincinnati Reading.
Down late in the game, East faced fourth down at the Reading 30-yard line. The Vikings went for it, but came up roughly 6 inches short on the measurement, allowing Reading to take the ball and run out the clock.
Villella had three touchdowns for the Vikings, while Nickels added a touchdown run of his own.
“My guys play hard. On Friday nights, they play their hind ends off,” Current said after the game. “I can never fault their effort, and they come to play. They have a lot to be proud of, and I’m proud of them. I also want to thank my assistant coaches — Kevin Evans, Steve Kirby, Todd Hawkins, Josh Snyder, Mark Rose, Frank Hall, Gary Church and Kevin Pyers — for their dedication all season long.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong