MALVERN - The way East Mills and Stanton began their district opener last Friday, with both teams scoring on their opening possessions, the reporter-estimated crowd of 400 on hand probably thought they were in for an offensive shootout.
What they got was a rugged, defensive game on a misty, humid night where neither team could find the endzone for the next two quarters until the Vikings took the lead for good in a 30-20 victory over the Wolverines.
On the first play from scrimmage, Brandon Clemmons raced 57 yards for a touchdown for East Mills to open the game. After the two-point conversion failed, Stanton took the ball at their own 15 and marched 65 yards in eight plays, aided by a Wolverine face mask penalty, to tie the game on Tyler Havrum’s three-yard touchdown scamper. The two point conversion was good to put the Vikings up 8-6 with just over nine minutes to go in the opening quarter.
And that was it.
Both teams traded punts, penalties and some ugly offense the next 28 minutes.
Three times in the first half the Wolverines had a first down inside the Stanton 15 but failed to put any points on the board.
In the third quarter Wolverine quarterback Luke Schafer hooked up with Royce Stortenbecker on a swing pass that the running back delivered down the sideline for what appeared to be a touchdown. But a clipping call negated the touchdown.
“We had a few calls like that that were questionable but that’s just the way it goes,” said East Mills coach Andy Irwin. “It’s something you just have to deal with.”
The Wolverines would have to deal with it once more.
After Havrum put the Vikings up 14-8 with 5:13 to go in the third quarter on a one-yard touchdown, the two teams traded punts before Havrum struck again, this time racing 27 yards for the score. The two-point conversion put Stanton up 22-6 with just over five minutes to go in the game.
East Mills went to its two-minute offense and responded a minute later when Schafer found Clemmons on a 54-yard touchdown pass.
The Vikings fumbled on their next possession and the Wolverines took over at their own 36 with 3:04 to go. Two plays later Schafer found Kyle Steiner running free in the Viking secondary and 45 yards later the Wolverines found themselves down just two, the two-point conversion waiting.
But another holding call on the Schafer to Steiner hook-up erased the touchdown. A sack of Schafer on the next play erased any chance the Wolverines had for a comeback.
Stanton added an insurance touchdown on Greg Focht’s 50-yard scamper two plays later.
Putting the drive killing penalties aside, Irwin points to his team’s red zone struggles as the biggest difference between a win and an 0-1 start in the district.
“We get those in, we could have been up 20 or 25 points,” said Irwin. “That’s the difference in the game.”
The Wolverines produced more than 400 yards of offense, including 310 passing by Schafer, but they turned the ball over three times, committed a season-high 10 penalties and were sacked five times.
“We made some poor decisions,” Irwin said of his offense. “We held the ball too long and made poor decisions. There was some questionable things (penalties), a couple interference calls, I think should have been called that weren’t.”
Havrum, a 6-foot-1, 210 pound junior, was the key to the Vikings, physical, ball control offense. The quarter threw the ball just seven times, completing four for 37 yards but he carried a game-high 24 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Greg Focht added 137 yards and a touchdown.
“We knew they were going to be physical,” said Irwin. “I thought we handled it fine. We had our opportunities.”
EM 06 00 00 14 20
S 08 00 06 16 30
EM - Brandon Clemmons, 57 run (conversion failed).
S - Tyler Havrum, 3 run (two point conversion good).
S - Havrum, 1 run (conversion failed).
S - Havrum, 27 run (two point conversion good).
EM - Clemmons, 54 pass from Luke Schafer (two point kick good).
S - Greg Focht, 50 run (two point conversion good).
EM - Daniel Duysen, 8 pass from Schafer (conversion failed).