LAURENS - With the outcome in doubt and a potential spot in the state playoffs on the line, Northeast Hamilton turned to its workhorse over the final 11 minutes here Friday night.
And Tyler Smith more than delivered.
Just the way he has all season.
DFJ photo by Tracy Runneberg
NEH tailback Tyler Smith (22) is tripped up by Laurens-Marathon’s Jordan Gunnarson (21)?during the Trojans’ 44-30 victory on Friday in Laurens.
Smith, a senior tailback, scored three of his six rushing touchdowns over the final 11:25 of regulation to help the Trojans overcome a 30-22 deficit and beat Laurens-Marathon, 44-30, in an 8-man District 2 slugfest that went back-and-forth for much of the 48-minute tussle.
Northeast Hamilton (5-2, 3-2) - winners of three straight - piggybacked Smith throughout. He toted the rock on 33 of the Trojans' 48 offensive plays and plowed his way to 256 yards rushing. It was his fifth 200-yard effort of the season - it's no coincidence that NEH is 5-0 in those contests - and pushed his season tally to a state-best 1,454 with 22 touchdowns.
"What a great game," NEH head coach John Seiser said of Smith's performance. "Tyler was just extremely patient and it was probably his toughest 256 yards of the year. He really earned those."
NEH 44, LAURENS-MARATHON 30
NE Hamilton 0 6 16 22-44
Laurens-Marathon 8 0 14 8-30
L-M - Keegan Jamison 13 pass from Chase Oehlertz (Noah Anderson run), 3:26.
NEH - Tyler Smith 7 run (run failed), 4:42.
NEH - Smith 40 run (Nick Jeffers pass from Logan Seiser), 10:05.
L-M - Tre Seiler 6 run (pass failed), 9:06.
NEH - Smith 1 run (Gabe Rapp run), 5:16.
L-M - Seiler 38 run (Jamison pass from Oehlertz), 3:58.
L-M - Levi Bechtel 5 pass from Oehlertz (Seiler run), 11:55.
NEH - Smith 2 run (Smith run), 11:25.
NEH - Smith 37 run (run failed), 5:51.
NEH - Smith 12 run (Smith run), 3:07.
RUSHING - NEH: Tyler Smith 33-256, Gabe Rapp 8-23.
PASSING - NEH: Logan Seiser 1-7-1 7.
RECEIVING - NEH: Rapp 1-7.
TACKLES (Leaders Only) - NEH: Rapp 15.5, Nick Jeffers 9, Seiser 7.5, Andy Pate 7, Smith 6, Jonathon Eggleston 6.
Seiser knew he had a quality ball carrier in Smith prior to the season, but not even the coach expected this massive amount of production.
"He's an all-around better player than he was last year and his season has just been phenomenal," Seiser said. "(Friday night) he was taking hits and breaking tackles ... he's just elevated himself up there."
The victory almost assured the Trojans of a postseason berth. They'll face Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire (4-3, 3-2) this week in Graettinger; a win would lock NEH into the district's No. 3 position.
Laurens-Marathon (3-4, 2-3) moved ahead 30-22 with 11:55 remaining on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Chase Oehlertz to Levi Bechtel, but from that point on it was all Trojans.
Smith powered his way into the end zone from 2 yards out just 30 seconds later and then notched the two-point conversion to even the clash at 30. He followed it up with touchdown jaunts of 37 and 12 yards in the final 6 minutes.
The NEH defense woke up in the late stages of the final period after allowing the Chargers to march up and down the field for much of the night. The Trojans forced a pair of three-and-out series and then got the ball back when Laurens-Marathon turned it over on downs.
"It definitely wasn't our best defensive effort of the season," Seiser said. "I thought we were kind of flat and not real focused, but the kids stepped up when they needed to and that's the main thing.
"We've been riding pretty high and we knew we would have one of these games eventually."
Smith's first touchdown of the night - a 7-yard scamper in the second quarter - pulled NEH within 8-6 at the intermission.
Smith broke off a 40-yard sprint to the end zone with 10:05 remaining in the third quarter to give the Trojans their first lead, but the adversaries spent the remainder of the period trading touchdowns.
Chargers' running back Tre Seiler scored a pair of third-quarter TDs on runs of 6 and 38 yards to give his team the advantage heading into the final 12 minutes of play.
Oehlertz finished with a pair of TD passes; he hit Keegan Jamison on a 13-yard scoring strike in the opening quarter.
NEH quarterback Logan Seiser was held in check by a blitzing Charger defense and he completed just 1 of 7 passes for seven yards. Fullback Gabe Rapp gave Smith a breather from time to time and picked up 23 ground yards on eight carries.
"They just sold out on everything. They blitzed all over the place and really gave us some trouble," John Seiser said. "I was concerned about some match-ups before the game. They're a smaller team than us, but they're all quick and we seem to do better against bigger teams."
Rapp had another big game defensively with 15.5 tackles, six of which were solo stops. Austin Smith recovered a fumble.