ANSONIA – Ansonia made four goal-line stands as the Tigers beat rival Mississinawa Valley 22-7 in a Cross County Conference football game on Friday in Ansonia.
Mississinawa Valley moved the ball well against Ansonia’s defense throughout the night, but when it mattered most the Tiger defense consistently came up big.
“Jiminy Christmas, that’s too close for comfort,” Ansonia coach Eugene Hoening said of his team’s goal-line stands. “We bent quite a bit. Our defense had a couple goal-line stands there – you would rather not go through goal-line stands.”
The teams’ offensive production was fairly even Friday night as Ansonia unofficially gained 279 total yards, 249 rushing and 30 passing, while Mississinawa Valley unofficially picked up 251 yards, 90 on the round and 161 through the air.
“I think for the first time all year we fought the entire game,” Mississinawa Valley coach Mike Griffin said. “No one quit. No one stopped. No one gave up. I just told them that. Actually this is the 18th game I’ve coached here – last year as defensive coordinator, this year as the head coach – and this is the first game no one quit, no one gave up. They fought their tail ends off the whole time. I’m proud of them for that. It’s a step in the building process here. That’s the first step.”
While Mississinawa Valley fought hard all night the Blackhawks’ inability to finish drives plus three turnovers proved to be too much to overcome.
“It was the offense’s fault for not getting this win, and I’ll take that as the guy calling the plays, put it squarely on my shoulders,” Griffin said.
Early on it looked like Mississinawa Valley could be in big trouble as Ansonia dominated the first quarter.
The Tigers took the game’s opening drive 66 yards in 10 plays with Max Wardrip scoring on a 1-yard run to put Ansonia up 6-0 less than four minutes into the game.
Then on Mississinawa Valley’s second offensive play of the game Ansonia’s Hunter Muir intercepted a Nate Gladdish pass and returned it to the Ansonia 43-yard line.
Nine plays later Ansonia’s Aydan Sanders ran 7 yards for another Tiger touchdown. Ansonia converted the two-point conversion, and with 2:44 remaining in the opening period the home team held a 14-0 lead.
“We did enough in the first quarter, got a couple quick touchdowns, and that helped,” Hoening said.
After falling behind by two scores, Mississinawa Valley started to build some momentum. The Blackhawks took their second drive 72 yards all the way down to the Ansonia 2-yard line. However, they lost yardage on three consecutive plays and then had a pass for no gain, turning the ball over on downs at the Tiger 5-yard line.
Mississinawa Valley’s defense then got its first stop of the night and forced Ansonia into a punting situation. The snap went over the punter’s head, however, and MV took over at the Tiger 22-yard line.
“That’s the best defensive effort we’ve had since last year when I think we played (National) Trail,” Griffin said of Friday night’s performance. “They played hard. They played lights out.”
The Blackhawks’ offense then moved to the Ansonia 1-yard line with a 17-yard pass from Trent Collins to JJ Howard followed by a 4-yard run by Dilyn Rammel. But MV again was stuffed, eventually turning the ball over on downs at the Ansonia 6.
“It’s the bend-don’t-break philosophy, I guess,” Hoening said. “So good for the boys. They made some big plays when they had to make them.”
In the second half Mississinawa Valley’s Trent Perkins took the opening kickoff all the way to the Ansonia 25-yard line, setting up the Blackhawks for their lone score of the night.
“Trent Perkins played his tail end off tonight,” Griffin said. “A senior, had a big return, had a couple nice catches. I was really proud of Trent Perkins tonight and the way he played really hard. They all played hard, but he stepped up from where he had been the last couple weeks.”
The return by Perkins set up a six-play scoring drive with Rammel running in a touchdown from 3 yards out, cutting the Ansonia lead to 14-7 with 9:21 remaining in the third quarter.
“You’ve got to give Mississinawa a lot of credit there,” Hoening said. “They put their skill people where they could do the most. I just thought that was a great coaching job. We had not seen the option in any of our films until now, and they ran that extremely well. That kept us off-balance all game.”
Mississinawa Valley again moved the ball well on its next drive, going 53 yards down to the Ansonia 2-yard line. However, the Blackhawks failed to convert again as they muffed a shotgun snap and Muir recovered the loose ball at the Tiger 17-yard line.
“Offensively we just didn’t execute,” Griffin said.
In the fourth quarter Ansonia made one of its few mistakes on the night with a fumble that Mississinawa’s Cody Dirksen recovered at the Blackhawk 26-yard line. However, the Blackhawks couldn’t move the ball and were forced to punt.
The punt was a line drive that went about 15 yards into the hands of Muir, who was set up to block but instead returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.
“I’d never seen that play before,” Hoening said of Muir’s unorthodox punt return for a touchdown. “That’s a new one.”
Following the ensuing kickoff Mississinawa Valley again moved the ball on offense and got down to the Ansonia 3 before fumbling. The Tigers’ Andrew Rowland recovered the loose ball, and Ansonia was able to run out the clock for a 22-7 win.
“Credit to their defense, they stepped up when we got inside the 10,” Griffin said.
Wardrip led Ansonia on Friday with 131 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Sanders had 69 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Matthew Shook was 2-of-6 passing for 30 yards, connecting with Rygh Fortkamp for 11 yards and Muir for 19 yards. Muir had a huge night with an interception, a fumble recovery and a punt return for a touchdown.
Collins was 15-of-23 passing for 161 yards. Gladdish caught four passes for 29 yards, Howard caught three for 30, Rammel caught two for 39, Perkins caught two for 26, Noah Hopkins caught two for 24 and Andrew Johns caught one for 13.
Collins also ran 13 times for a team-high 40 yards. Rammel ran 11 times for 37 yards and a touchdown.
Ansonia improved to 2-6 overall and 2-4 in the CCC with Friday’s win. The Tigers will travel to Bethel on Friday.
Mississinawa Valley fell to 0-8 overall and 0-7 in the CCC with the loss. The Blackhawks will play host to Arcanum on Friday in their final home game of the season.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.