By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — With Week 11 on the line, both Troy Christian and Miami East went to war.
In the end, though, the Eagles — who entered the night ranked No. 2 in the Division VII, Region 28 playoff standings — wore out the Vikings in the second half, finally slowing down the Miami East offense while not losing a step on their side of the ball and pulling away for a 42-21 victory Friday night in Casstown to improve to 8-1 on the season.
The win practically assures the Eagles a home game in the first round of the playoffs. With the loss, the Vikings (6-3) — who entered the night in the sixth spot in the Division VI, Region 24 playoff standings — will likely need a victory in their finale next week to make sure they’re playing in Week 11.
After the first half, both defenses looked helpless.
Troy Christian marched 66 yards in seven quick plays on the game’s opening possession, turning in plays of 10-or-more yards on the first four plays of the drive. On third-and-5, quarterback Hayden Hartman hit Jacob Brown on an 11-yard fade in the back corner of the end zone, giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead after only 2:11 had passed.
The Eagles threw an interception on the second play of the ensuing possession, but the Viking defense forced a three-and-out to take the ball back. East then set out on an eight-play, 75-yard drive, finished off by a bruising 4-yard touchdown run up the middle by Levi Adducchio to tie the game at the 4:33 mark of the first quarter.
The Eagles answered with an eight-play, 64-yard drive of their own, scoring with 1:37 left in the first quarter. A 17-yard run by Hartman gave Troy Christian first-and-goal at the Viking 4, and finally on third-and-goal Hartman snuck it in from the shotgun spread formation from 1 yard out to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead.
Miami East began the ensuing drive with a holding penalty, sticking itself with a first-and-22 from its own 17. Quarterback Ian Gengler hit Arron Adams for a 26-yard screen play, though, kickstarting a 10-play, 71-yard drive that ended once again with a tough 4-yard touchdown run by Adducchio to even the score with 9:20 left until halftime.
Not to be outdone, Troy Christian took the ball 58 yards on 10 plays, converting two clutch third downs along the way before Jacob Calvert punched it in on first-and-goal from 2 yards out to give the Eagles a 21-14 lead with 5:21 left in the half.
That was plenty of time for the Vikings to march it back down the field, though. A 15-play, 65-yard drive that included a fourth-and-1 conversion on a 2-yard run by Ian Gengler concluded with a 4-yard touchdown run by Adams to tie the score with 1:02 until the break. The Viking defense held before the half, almost picking off a pair of passes in the process, but the score remained tied 21-21 at the break.
Troy Christian had 221 yards of offense in the first half, with Hartman carrying the ball 12 times for 94 yards and completing seven passes for 76 yards. The Vikings, meanwhile, had 217 yards of offense — 191 of that on the ground, with Justin Brown piling up 81 first-half yards on nine carries and Adams 76 yards on eight carries.
The second half, however, was all Troy Christian.
With both defenses making adjustments and playing better early in the third, the Eagles finally were able to go on a drive and score on a 3-yard touchdown by Calvert to give Troy Christian a 28-21 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Vikings turned the ball over on downs, but an interception by Justin Brown appeared to tie the score after a 50-yard pick-six. A penalty called the touchdown back, though, and the Eagle defense forced a punt. And with 7:18 left in the game, Hartman hit Jacob Brown in stride with a 57-yard touchdown pass to give Troy Christian a two-score lead for the first time in the game, 34-21.
East turned the ball over on downs again, and Calvert broke a long touchdown run with 2:41 to play. Troy Christian cashed in the two-point conversion try to make it 42-21, and one final turnover on downs sealed the win.
Troy Christian finishes the season at home against Mississinawa Valley, while Miami East travels to Twin Valley South.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.