Created on Monday, 05 November 2012 Written by MATT HAMMOND
ABOVE: West Liberty-Salem’s Travis Mayse runs for a 65-yard touchdown during the first quarter of Saturday’s home playoff game against Dayton Christian. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: West Liberty-Salem’s Riley Sims runs past Dayton Christian’s Heath Harding for a touchdown during the first half of Saturday’s playoff game at WL-Salem. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | MATT HAMMOND)
West Liberty-Salem’s offense is capable of slinging the ball around with the best of them, but the Tigers showed off a dominant running game to sink Dayton Christian in a playoff opener Saturday night.
Host WL-Salem rolled up 295 rushing yards on 51 carries en route to a 28-14 victory in a Division V regional quarterfinal.
“We have a great offensive line,” said WL-Salem senior quarterback Riley Sims, who lugged the ball 35 times for 144 yards. “They always do a great job of opening up holes.”
The Tigers (11-0) advance to play top-seeded Coldwater (11-0) in a regional semifinal matchup at 7 p.m. Saturday at Alexander Stadium in Piqua. Coldwater beat Miami East 72-7 in its opening-round game.
While the offense did its job with 411 total yards, the Tigers’ defense was impressive as well. The Warriors came in averaging 52 points per game, but were held to just a pair of touchdowns.
Dayton Christian star running back Heath Harding, who rushed for over 2,000 yards during the regular season, was limited to 115 yards on 13 carries.
The Warriors were turned away without points four times inside the Tigers’ 20-yard line.
“Our defense was outstanding,” said WL-Salem head coach Toby Smith. “That is one heck of a running back. There were times we had him corralled and he still got away. Every time he touches the ball he has a chance to go all the way. I am proud of the discipline our defensive guys showed.”
The win was the fourth playoff victory in the Tigers’ football history.
“All year our goal was to get a home playoff game,” said Sims. “We didn’t want to lose our last home game.”
It also marked the 40th win for the Tigers’ current senior class.
“I’m awfully proud of our seniors,” said Smith. “(Winning 40 games) is something special.”
Big plays have been a staple of the WL-Salem offense and that trend continued Saturday.
On the Tigers’ second offensive series, senior running back Travis Mayse ripped off a 65-yard TD run that gave the hosts a 7-0 lead with 5:32 left in the opening quarter.
Dayton Christian struck back early in the second quarter as Tanner Wall threw a 28-yard TD strike to Brandon Williams that tied the game at 7-7.
WL-Salem grabbed the lead back on its next possession. The Tigers drove 65 yards on 10 plays, with Mayse rolling into the end zone from seven yards out to give his team a 14-7 advantage with 5:16 remaining until halftime.
The Tigers added another touchdown in the final minute of the second quarter. Sims found the end zone on a 15-yard keeper, making the score 21-7 at the break.
Sims went to the air for an electrifying play in the fourth quarter. Sims tossed a screen pass to Ross Hickenbottom, who dashed 68 yards down the home sideline for an insurance touchdown. That gave the Tigers a commanding 28-7 lead with 8:53 left in the game.
Dayton Christian (10-1) cut the Tigers’ lead to 14 points at the 5:32 mark on a 12-yard run by Harding, but the Tigers did not let the Warriors get any closer.
“It boiled down to the fact that they were the better team,” said Dayton Christian coach Dave Amlin. “We played as hard as we could, but they were the better team.”
The Warriors were making their first postseason appearance in school history.
“It was a good football game,” said Amlin. “I would rather have won, but it was still a good experience for us.”
Mayse contributed 139 rushing yards on just 12 carries to help fuel the WL-Salem offense.
Sims threw only seven passes, but he completed four of them for 116 yards. Hickenbottom was the chief beneficiary, making two grabs for 106 yards.
Dayton Christian finished with 371 total yards (202 passing, 169 rushing).
Defensively for the Tigers, Matt Ulmer and Hickenbottom recovered fumbles and Trevor Anderson had a team-high 11 tackles.
Ticket information for Coldwater game: Tickets for Saturday’s game against Coldwater go on sale Tuesday afternoon at McCulla Sew & Vac, Stocksdale Insurance and at the WL-Salem high school office.
WL-SALEM 28, DAY. CHRISTIAN 14
Day. Christian 0 7 0 7 – 14
WL-Salem 7 14 0 7 – 28
TEAM STATISTICS DC WL
First downs 16 17
Total net yards 371 411
Rushes/yards 33/169 51/295
Passing 202 116
Comp-att-int 11-22-0 4-7-0
Punts/avg 1/32 3/33.3
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-2
Penalties-yards 5-25 5-4