Eagles utilize backfield power to down Trojans
BLAIRSBURG – Slowing down the powerful running game of East Union was always going to be a challenge for the Northeast Hamilton football team here Friday night.
With tailback Mike Ward and fullback Brandon Wittstock both well over 200 pounds, the Eagles used their size advantage to build a big ground edge and they went on to down the Trojans, 34-14, in a Class 8-man District 7 contest.
East Union (4-2, 3-1) – right in the thick of the playoff chase in the district – chewed up 339 yards of real estate on the ground and finished with a 425-233 edge in total yards of offense in sending Northeast Hamilton (2-4, 1-3) to its second straight loss.
“They’ve got big backs and they just ran downhill on us all night long,” NEH head coach John Seiser said. “In the first half we played very poorly defensively and that didn’t help anything, but we knew we were going to have trouble stopping them.”
Ward rushed for 153 yards and one touchdown, while Wittstock picked up 92 yards and a score. Quarterback Cole Campbell was nimble running the ball as well and piled up 95 ground yards and a touchdown.
East Union scored the game’s first 28 points and took the four-touchdown lead into the final period. Campbell tossed a 15-yard TD to Brandon Hulsey in the first quarter and then broke free on a 36-yard scamper to the end zone in the second. Wittstock dove in on runs of 6 and 4 yards during the spree.
Campbell completed 7 of 10 passes for 86 yards.
NEH might not have been able to slow down the Eagles, but Seiser says his team was its own worst enemy in allowing East Union to build the big lead. Four times the Trojans drove down inside the Eagles’ 15-yard line, but came up empty on all four occasions.
“Every one of those drives ended on fumbles or penalties that pushed us back,” Seiser said. “We’d move the ball pretty well and then just self-destruct, it’s pretty much the same story it’s been all year. We knew we were going to need to score to keep up with them.”
NEH running back Andy Pate got his team back in the game with touchdown runs of 23 and 8 yards over the initial five minutes of the fourth quarter.
Trailing 28-14, NEH recovered an onside kick following Pate’s second score, but the comeback attempt was quickly thwarted on an interception.
East Union put the game away on a 23-yard sprint to the house by Ward with 3:49 remaining.
“It should have been a closer game than what the final score was,” Seiser said. “If we just take care of the ball and play smart, it should have been an even football game.”
Pate accounted for 118 yards of total offense in the loss; the senior gained 91 rushing yards on 13 carries and completed 4 of 10 passes for 27 yards.
East Union kept Trojans’ senior running back Nick Jeffers bottled up all night, as he gained just 49 yards and 15 totes.
Freshman Wes Weinkoop was the Trojans’ leading receiver with four catches that covered 31 yards.
Jeffers led NEH defensive with 15 tackles. Truman Chamness was in on 12 stops from his defensive end position.
“I thought Truman Chamness played his best game of the season,” Seiser said. “He really did a good job at defensive end.”
The Trojans will make their final road trip ever on Friday when they make the long bus ride to Murray for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Murray (0-6, 0-4) will enter the game winless, but has been playing teams closer in recent weeks.
NEH will stay at home for its final two games against Guthrie Center and seventh-ranked Glidden-Ralston.