The ground-and-pound approach worked wonders yet again Friday night for Edgewood High School’s football team.
The Cougars rumbled to 428 rushing yards and took care of host Little Miami 34-12 in a Southwest Ohio Conference affair at Hi-Five Field, then found out they had repeated as SWOC champions.
Harrison (7-2 overall, 4-1 SWOC) drilled Mount Healthy (4-5, 4-1) by a 37-6 margin, giving Edgewood (7-2, 5-0) at least a share of the conference title heading into its regular-season finale at Mount Healthy next Friday.
“You never want to tie anything, and I’m sure Mount Healthy will be ready for us,” Cougars coach Scott Clemmons said. “But I’m very happy for our team. Our boys have put in the time. People were second-guessing who we are and what we do just because we lost a lot of great seniors last year. We’ve got a lot of great seniors this year.”
Little Miami was mettlesome and only trailed 17-12 at halftime, but the Panthers (6-3, 3-3) were a bit overmatched in the end.
Wade Phillips (18 carries, 151 yards), Elijah Williams (25 carries, 116 yards, two TDs), Lincoln Howell (four carries, 87 yards, TD) and D.J. Whiles (three carries, 83 yards, TD) took care of business in the Wing-T attack as Edgewood stayed alive in the Division II, Region 8 playoff chase.
“The first half was a battle, but we all kept our composure,” said Williams, a junior fullback. “Just because we might be going down sometimes, we’re there to pick each other up. We’re always there for each other.”
Little Miami has already clinched its first winning season since 2008, and while Senior Night didn’t go the way the Panthers hoped it would, LM coach Nate Mahon didn’t want his players to put their heads down.
“Sometimes you run into a team that’s pretty good and better than you,” Mahon said. “Edgewood is a good team, a good program. They ran the ball and did what they do.
“We knew it was going to be an uphill battle with some of the injuries we’ve had and continue to have, but I love our kids and their spirit and their fight. They played tough tonight. They played with an edge. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids and our seniors because we could’ve easily just given up and rolled over, and we did not.”
The Cougars had a 455-178 advantage in yardage, yet couldn’t put Little Miami away until after the break.
The Panthers stayed in the game with a pair of big-play touchdowns in the first half, a 70-yard juggled connection between quarterback Brody Reder and Ryan Sellars and a 40-yard blocked punt return by Logan Liddle (Reed Newman blocked the punt).
“We had a few nice conversations with the young men at halftime about what we weren’t doing right,” Clemmons said. “Once we settled ourselves down, we came out of halftime refocused and played very well.”
Edgewood opened the third period with a back-breaking touchdown drive, going 72 yards on 10 plays. The Cougars faced fourth-and-8 at the LM 28 when Corbin Craft launched his only completion of the night, a 27-yard toss to Whiles. Williams scored on the next play.
“I think that ball went right over the top of four of our fingertips,” said Mahon, shaking his head. “If we stop them there, we’re down five with the ball. You never know what might happen.”
Whiles busted loose for an 88-yard touchdown run just over five minutes later, and Julian Pletz added a 21-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to finish the scoring. Pletz hit a 37-yarder in the second stanza.
Little Miami didn’t have much consistency on offense. Jake Shirey ran 11 times for 44 yards, while Reder was 6 of 15 for 109 yards with an interception (by Justin Hiltbrand).
Clemmons praised his offensive line and the O-line coaches for paving the road for Edgewood’s runners.
“It’s all because of the line,” Williams said. “I love those guys.”
The Panthers will finish the season next Friday at Troy Christian.
Little Miami 6-6-0-0—12
E: Elijah Williams 7 run (Julian Pletz kick)
E: Lincoln Howell 73 run (Pletz kick)
L: Ryan Sellars 70 pass from Brody Reder (Pass failed)
E: Pletz 37 field goal
L: Logan Liddle 40 blocked punt return (Pass failed)
E: Williams 1 run (Pletz kick)
E: D.J. Whiles 88 run (Pletz kick)
E: Pletz 21 field goal