By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Miami East finished the season 8-2, won a share of its league championship and only lost to a pair of playoff teams. In the Vikings’ eight victories, they won by an average score of 47.6-15.9, and since a Week 1 loss to Division V Milton-Union, East’s only defeat was in overtime against Covington, the No. 2 seed in D-VII, Region 26.
As impressive as that resume is, the Vikings earned the eighth and final playoff spot in D-VI, Region 22 and will face top-seeded, four-time defending state champion Marion Local on the road Saturday night in a regional quarterfinal matchup.
“In our region, they brought in some teams from Lima that weren’t in it the last couple years, Marion Local moved up, Minster moved down,” Miami East coach Max Current said. “It’s a tough region, there’s no doubt about it. Mechanicsburg, West Liberty, the Cincinnati schools — and you can consider us tough right with everyone else.
“It’s a special thing to get to play in Week 11. It’s a good reward for the kids for a good year. I know we could’ve done better, but we won our league championship — which is always the No. 1 goal — and made it to Week 11. Hopefully Saturday we can go out and play a good game.”
Marion Local finished the season 9-1 but still earned the No. 1 seed over 10-0 Mechanicsburg, with the Flyers’ only loss a 17-14 Week 7 defeat at the hands of Coldwater — a loss that ended a 43-game winning streak. Still, Marion Local won four straight state titles in D-VI and D-VII.
“With their league, with Coldwater and Versailles in D-V, then you’ve got the D-VI schools ad some good D-VII schools, it’s pretty balanced. They’re battle-tested,” Current said. “They’re going for a five-peat. How many teams can say that? That in itself is impressive. I don’t care who’s got to play them, you’ve got to be impressed.”
Still, the Vikings have no plans to back down.
“Life’s full of challenges,” Current said. “You’ll be faced with them your whole life. You can’t turn your back on them, you’ve got to deal with them. We have a big challenge in front of us right now, and we’re going to face it.”
That challenge involves an offense with a lot of weapons.
Derek Ruhenkamp is the team’s leading rusher with 742 yards and 12 touchdowns, with Nate Moeller right behind with 408 yards and six touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Flyers have a pair of capable quarterbacks in Cole Griesdorn and Duane Leugers. Both have comparable numbers, with Griesdorn 36 for 63 for 578 yards with 11 touchdowns and three picks and Leugers 35 for 53 571 yards with five scores and an interception. The Flyers’ leading receivers are Hunter Wilker with 28 catches for 466 yards and five touchdowns and Matt Kahlig with 18 catches for 392 yards and six touchdowns.
“They’re still pretty balanced,” Current said. “They run a pro-style offense. They’ll line it up and run it right at you, they’re not going to try and trick you, and their passing game is solid. They’ll run some play action off the run, use some pistol looks and mix it up. It’s not anything we haven’t seen all season playing the teams we have — that’s not the aspect I’m worried about. It’s the execution aspect.”
The Viking defense has played well down the stretch, though, particularly after its loss to Covington. They shut down Tri-County North in a 56-27 victory, then they stopped a potent Troy Christian offense, 41-24. Finally, they won 41-6 in Week 10 against Twin Valley South to clinch a share of the Cross County Conference title.
“Our front eight is pretty good, we knew that coming into the season,” Current said. “We knew we had some growing up to do in the secondary, but in the last three weeks, the secondary has grown up. The young kids all have a full season under their belts now. I think we’ve done a good job from Week 1 to Week 10 of improving, and it’s nice to see the way the kids got better as the season went on.”
The Vikings have a potent offense of their own, with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Kurt Brower and Logan May. Brower finished with 1,302 yards and 13 touchdowns, May had 1,048 yards and 16 touchdowns and Arron Adams added 588 yards and five scores.
Quarterback Braxton Donaldson added another dimension, going 48 for 78 for 914 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions, with May (19 catches, 464 yards, seven touchdowns) and Adams (eight catches, 171 yards, two touchdowns) his favorite targets.
And the Vikings are battle tested, too.
“After Covington, we told the kids that the playoffs start right now,” Current said. “We’ve been in a playoff since Week 8. We were down in 10th, 11th, got up to eighth and had to keep going just to stay in it. The guys have really done a good job of getting it done when we needed to.”
And now they face their biggest challenge.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.