By TED RADICK
Leipsic had a plan coming into Friday night’s Blanchard Valley Conference opener at Liberty-Benton: Set a tone with hard, physical play along the line of scrimmage.
That’s exactly what the Vikings did.
Leipsic scored on its first three offensive possessions, built a 21-0 lead after one quarter and rolled past the Eagles 34-7.
Leipsic improved to 3-0, 1-0 BVC. Liberty-Benton dropped to 0-3, 0-1.
“For sure, the plan was to run the ball,” senior lineman Clay Gerdeman said. “We knew they were pretty young, and we’re pretty physical. We’re really strong up front, and our plan was to run the ball right to them. We wanted to start off fast, and we did.”
Leipsic jumped right from the gate with eight running plays on its first drive. Gavin Lomeli capped the 55-yard drive with a 1-yard run.
A Cole Rieman interception gave the Vikings the ball back at the Liberty-Benton 31-yard line, and Leipsic ran it right at the Eagles again. Four plays, all runs, later and Juan Pena scored on a 4-yard burst. Dylan Schroeder hit Tyler Hiegel on a 43-yard scoring pass late in the first quarter and the Vikings were up 21-0.
“I’m pretty proud of our offensive line, the way we came up here. The defending champions … we came out and played really well the first half,” junior lineman Ryley Spangler said. “We drove it right down and scored, and that was the plan.”
Leipsic coach Joe Kirkendall said his offense’s versatility springs from its solid play along the line. The Vikings had a 350-227 edge in total yards.
“It’s a testament to our guys up front,” Kirkendall said. “Our pad level is improving, our communication is improving. We have different backs who can run the ball, and the key is to put pressure on teams. One of the things that helps is we still have Cole Rieman catching passes from Dylan Schroeder. So, if you get too close, that gives us big plays in the passing game.
“The guys up front, we have three starters back and two new guys, there’s a lot of desire and a lot of toughness in that group. It’s just a blue-collar, typical Leipsic group of football players. We tell them, get engaged and stay engaged, and we’re doing a pretty good job of doing that. And they ask good questions. They’re smart kids up there, too.”
Leipsic rushed 39 times for 183 yards, led by Lomeli’s 69 yards on 14 carries. Kaiden Rader had 49 yards on seven carries with a 13-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Schroeder was 9 of 12 passing for 167 yards and two touchdowns, including a 5-yard strike to Pena late in the second quarter.
Liberty-Benton coach Tim Nichols can appreciate Leipsic’s style of hard, tough football.
“At the end of the day, when the lights come on, if the guy across the line is more physical then that’s what’s going to happen,” Nichols said. “That’s what happened on both sides of the ball, both fronts. I thought we responded a little bit better in the second half; I don’t know why we were in such catch-mode early on.”
The Eagles had 74 rushing yards on 31 attempts and turned the ball over four times. Marshall Rose ran 13 times for 49 yards with a 30-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
“They’re big, they’re physical, they make you commit to having so many in the box and then they can throw over you,” Nichols said. “They put you in a bind. It’s going to take a good team to beat them. We were in scramble mode.”
Leipsic joins McComb, Pandora-Gilboa and Arlington as BVC teams off to 3-0 starts. The Vikings beat Liberty-Benton last year, yet settled for a tie for third in the league behind co-champs L-B and McComb.
“Winning is winning, 3-0 is where we want to be. We’re playing better football at this point than we were a year ago,” Kirkendall said. “That’s a part of it. We have a veteran group.
“We knew this was a big game. This was the defending champion, Liberty-Benton, on their field. We were pretty locked in during the first half.”
Spangler said the Vikings have a BVC title in mind.
“That’s the plan, to win it,” he said. “And to enjoy the ride there, though.”
Liberty-Benton hosts Pandora-Gilboa next Friday. The Eagles will do that without junior quarterback Michael Erdeljac, who was 12 of 25 passing for 153 yards before leaving in the third quarter with what appeared to be a significant knee injury. Nichols said starting safety Kaden Ebert is likely done with an arm injury, as well.
“Now we’ll build from a little more adversity,” Nichols said. “There’s a lot of season left, but we have some looking in the mirror to do.”
Leipsic 21 13 0 0 — 34
Liberty-Benton 0 7 0 0 — 7
LEIP — Lomeli 1 run (Pena kick)
LEIP — Pena 4 run (Pena kick)
LEIP — Hiegel 43 pass from Schroeder (Pena kick)
L-B — Rose 30 run (Bartel kick)
LEIP — Rader 13 run (Pena kick)
LEIP — Pena 5 pass from Schroeder (kick failed)
First Downs 12 10
Rushes-yards 39-183 31-74
Passing Yards 167 153
Comp-Att-Int 9-12-0 12-29-4
Punts-Avg. 4-30.5 3-32.7
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards 4-20 5-40
rushing — Leipsic, Lomeli 14-69, Rader 7-49, Pena 7-30, Williamson 8-17, Rieman 1-12, Jimenez 1-14, Hiegel 1-2. Liberty-Benton, Rose 13-49, Baker 5-20, Sadler 3-26, Nichols 1-1, Siezak 1-(minus-5), Erdeljac 8-(minus-17).
passing — Leipsic, Schroeder 9-12-0-167. Liberty-Benton, Erdeljac 12-25-1-153, Spiess 0-4-2-0.
receiving — Leipsic, Rader 4-64, Rieman 3-56, Hiegel 1-43, Pena 1-5. Liberty-Benton, Rose 4-91, Collert 3-22, Ebert 2-16, Bartel 1-14, Sadler 1-5, Eckford 1-5.