After a tough loss to their cross-town rivals, the Southern Ohio Spartans (5-4) were looking for a pick-me-up in order to stay alive in the playoff race. That’s exactly what they got in the Carter County Wildcats.
The Spartans used a dominate rushing attack and a suffocating defensive effort to blow past the Wildcats (1-8) by a score of 26-0.
“Coming off of the game against the Warriors, our confidence was down,” said Spartans owner Jojo Parker. “Going out there, everyone wanted to set an example and play this game a little better than we did last week.”
The win keeps the Spartans squarely in the hunt for the eighth seed in the Northern Frontier Football League playoffs, as they fight both the Cincinnati Xtreme (4-5) and the Cincinnati Bulldogs.
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Spartans hoped to establish a dominant running game, something they had not done all season. When the Spartans’ starting quarterback Duke Edwards left the game with a rib injury, the running game became even more vital.
Luckily, former Wheelersburg Pirate Christian Ellis was up to the task. He was Southern Ohio’s leading rushing, going over 100-yard mark on the day.
What’s more impressive about Ellis’ effort is that it came with very little help from the offensive line, many of whom were unable to make the trip. According to Parker, some Spartan wide receivers were brought in to play on the line.
“It showed us that we can line up in the I-formation and actually run,” Parker said. “We need to run instead of just dropping back to pass to open up our passing game. That will probably be a main emphasis on our offense from now until we’re out.”
The Spartan defense, which has been the strength of the team all season, had another big day, forcing a shutout and recording four turnovers on the day. Brian Dawkins led the way with two interceptions, and All-Star defensive lineman Alec Meeker and Tre Underwood kept the Carter County quarterbacks on their toes all day.
“It gives us a little bit of confidence headed into the game next week with the Xtreme,” Parker said.
Saturday’s matchup with the rival Cincinnati Xtreme could give Southern Ohio its first playoff berth in team history. Parker knows his players and fans will be more than ready to be playing extra football.
“Everybody’s ready for that, especially after last season,” Parker said. “We’re ready for some postseason.”
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter