TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Control the clock and control the outcome.
The Southern football team racked up over 200 yards on the ground en route to a 21-14 victory over Tri-Valley Conference rival Eastern Saturday night at East Shade River Stadium.
The Tornadoes (4-6, 4-4 TVC Hocking) controlled the tempo of the game, carrying the ball 55 times on the night which led to a 31:17-to-16:43 time of possession advantage over the Eagles (6-4, 5-3).
Eastern kicked the ball away to begin game and the Tornadoes set up shop from their own 27 yard line. Tyler Barton took the ball on a counter run from four yards out to give SHS the early lead. Trenton Deem added the point after touchdown to make it 7-0. Southern used 13 plays to go 73 yards on the games opening drive, which ate up 6:56.
The EHS offense opened its first drive at its own 27 yard line and began marching down the field. Despite two penalties setting the Eagles back on the drive they still found the endzone from five yards out on a jump pass from Joey Scowden to Alex Amos. Max Carnahan’s kick tied the game at seven apiece, capping off the 4:09 drive that was Eastern’s longest of the game.
EHS forced Southern into a three-and-out on the Tornadoes second drive of the game, but SHS freshman Tyler O’Conner regained possession for the Tornadoes when he intercepted Joey Scowden’s third and long pass. Southern got inside the five yard line after the interception but the Eagles blocked the field goal attempt to keep the game tied at seven.
The Eagles had their second straight drive ended by an interception, this time it was Southern’s Tristen Wolfe intercepting Joey Scowden’s pass and returning it to the 40 yard line.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on EHS put the Tornadoes on the Eastern 25 yard line for the first play of the drive. The Tornadoes converted a fourth and 18 and had the ball at the one yard line with four opportunities to find paydirt. On second down Wolfe converted on the quarterback sneak giving Southern it’s second lead of the game. Deem added the extra point and Southern took the 14-7 lead into the half.
The Eagles connected on back-to-back big plays to open the second half giving them a first and goal from the two yard line. Eastern couldn’t crack the endzone on four tries and the ball was turned over on downs. Southern advanced the ball to the 25 yard line but was forced to punt.
EHS fumbled the ball on the first play of the ensuing drive and the Tornadoes took back over their own 43 yard line. After three-and-outs by each team Southern took back over at the EHS 47 and began moving the ball toward the endzone. On the first play of the fourth period Eastern stripped the ball and recovered the fumble at the EHS 18 yard line.
After three consecutive punts the SHS offense took back over with 7:19 remaining in regulation. Fullback Ryan Billingsley punched the ball into the endzone from three yards out, capping off the 10 play drive. Deem added the point after touchdown and gave Southern the 21-7 lead with 1:48 left in the game.
In hurry-up mode the Eastern offense needed just three plays and 27 seconds to find the endzone on a 41 yard pass from Joey Scowden to Carnahan. Carnahan executed the point after and EHS trailed 21-14. Eastern stopped the Tornadoes on three straight plays forcing Southern into a fourth and seven with under 20 seconds remaining in the contest. Southern executed a fake punt for the first down and sealed the 21-14 victory.
“I can’t take credit for that what so ever,” Southern coach Kyle Wickline said about the fake punt. “The punter saw everyone lined up outside and ran off the left edge, that was all Ryan Billingsley.”
Not only did Southern have a substantial time of possession advantage over Eastern but the Tornadoes ran 19 more offensive plays than the hosts. SHS had a 15-to-9 advantage in first downs, as well as a 268-227 advantage in total yards. Eastern enjoined a 109-63 edge in passing yards but the Tornadoes had a 205-118 advantage in rushing yards. Southern fumbled three times, while the Eagles fumbled once but both team lost just one fumble. Eastern was penalized 10 times totaling 90 yards, while Southern was flagged four times totaling 20 yards.
“It’s just indescribable,” Eastern coach David Tennant said after the game. “Tonight when we took the field they wanted it more than us. They played a very good game and you cant take anything away from Southern. They took the field with the intentions to beat us and they did.”
This is the first time Southern has defeated Eastern since the 2008 season.
“It feels awesome because we’ve worked all year for this” Wickline said. “Eastern is a heck of a ball club and we just out played them tonight. Eastern against us, it’s always a rivalry game and it’s always something you’re going to play for.”
Southern’s running attack was led by Tyler Barton with 79 yards on 28 carries and Tyler O’Conner with 70 yards on nine carries. Ryan Billingsley had 45 yards on four attempts, Tristen Wolfe had three yards on 11 tries, and Trenton Deem rushed for one yard on two carries.
The SHS passing attack was led by Wolfe with 63 yards, while converting on 6-of-9 attempts. Deem was Southern’s leading receiver with 50 yards on three grabs, followed by Dennis Teaford with 13 yards on two catches and Jack Lemley with zero yards on one catch.
Ethan Nottingham led Eastern’s rushing attack with 82 yards on 12 carries, while Joey Scowden earned 36 yards on 14 carries. Joey Scowden was 8-of-18 through the air for 109 yards but he suffered two interceptions. Nottingham through one pass that fell incomplete. Max Carnahan led the Eagles in receiving with 60 yards on three catches, followed by Zach Scowden with three grabs for 28 yards and Alex Amos with two receptions for 21 yards.
This was the last game for Southern seniors Jeremiah Warden, Zach Davis and Joe Smith.
“I’m really proud of their effort,” Wickline said of his seniors. “We only had three seniors and we’re really looking forward to next year with 13 juniors coming back next year.”
This was also the final game for Eastern seniors Max Carnahan, Joey Scowden, Alex Amos, Ethan Nottingham, Randel Davis, Tim Minear, Garrett Ritchie and Troy Gantt.
“These seniors are a special group and that’s why it breaks my heart to see them go out like this,” Tennant said. “I hope they take away that they have a family at Eastern. That’s one thing that came from this year,they really came together as a family.”