By Dave Pearce
You’ve heard it said there is strength in numbers. But for the North Posey Vikings, it is more than just numbers. There is strength all the way up and down the North Posey Viking football line-up and if you don’t believe it, just check with the South Spencer Rebels.
In a game that is usually close, exciting, and often comes down to the final quarter, the Vikings took the suspense out early on Friday night at Reo, scoring 18 points in the first half (including a safety). That included giving up only one first down in the half and only three on the night.
The Vikings wasted little time taking the opening kick-off back to within Nick Neidig field goal range and the senior kicker put the first points of the season on the board from 25 yards out at the 6:26 mark of the first quarter.
The Viking defense proved equally impressive as it was three and out for South Spencer and Wes Harness finished off the Vikings’ second score of the quarter, a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:02 remaining in the quarter to give the Vikings 10-0 lead after the first period.
The defense came up big early in the second period as Tyler Atkins blocked a punt in the first minute of the quarter but the Viking offense sputtered as a safety blitz on third-and-six caught quarterback Alec Werry behind the line of scrimmage and forced a Viking punt from the South Spencer 34.
Neidig, who has worked on his kicking game throughout the summer, nailed a high punt that landed inside the 10-yard line to put the Rebels in poor field position again.
But North Posey Coach Joe Gengelbach knows that field position is key to any successful season and with Neidig at the helm and a capable back-up kicker in Jace Gentil, he knows the Vikings are capable of putting opponents right where the Vikings want them when they are forced to give up the ball.
“The kicking game for us this year is going to be a plus,” Gengelbach said. “And we have some kids who can get down the field and cover. Offensively, when we finally got into sync, I think we were turning and trying to chase those quick kids instead of just squaring up. Then we were just getting a pad on them and were able to stay with them a little batter.”
Following Neidig’s punt, a botched up hand-off left South Spencer quarterback Cole Woodburn the only one who could recover the fumble that resulted in a safety for the Vikings to make the score 12-0 with 4:06 to go in the first half.
On the ensuing kick-off, Harness returned the ball to the South Spencer 46. Then on third-and-4 with 3:10 remaining in the half, a pair of holds on the same play left the Vikings facing thord-and-14 when Werry hit Jake Bender with a strike and the capable receiver took the ball down to the Rebel 25 for a first down.
Then, facing second-and-3 on the five yard line with 39 seconds remaining in the half, the Vikings called a time out and Harness then picked up a head of steam and carried the ball in for the final score of the half. The two-point conversion pass failed and the Vikings led 18-0 at the half.
“I thought South Spencer played very hard,” Gengelbach said after the game. “In the first half, the did a lot of moving and they are quick. They covered some ground and they did a good job taking some routes away from us.’
But the third quarter, the Vikings came out and took any chance the Rebels might have had away early, as Harness went in again from 14 yards out with 8:55 remaining to give the Vikings a 24-0 lead. The extra point was wide. But it didn’t take long for kicker Gentil to make up for the mistake as only a minute and a half later, Werry hit Neidig in stride and the lanky senior did the rest as the Vikings went ahead 31-0 Gentil nailed the extra point.
From that point forward, many Vikings saw action as several underclassmen saw some playing time without loss of a ton of quality. Harness broke loose for a 55-yard scoring run just a little over a minute later and Colton Martin scored on a 3-yard run with 2:07 remaining in the third quarter.
When Dylan Wright carried the ball in from one yard out at the 4:52 mark of the fourth quarter and Gentil nailed the extra point, the Vikings had dominated the season and conference opener to the tune of 51-0.
The statistics were just as lop-sided as the score as the Vikings had 18 first downs to three for the Rebels. South Spencer was held to a single yard on the ground and only 19 in the air for a total of 20 yards on the night. While the defense was shining, the offense was running wild for 357 yards on 7-of-14 passing for 85 yards and 272 yards on the ground. They also were able to be successful on 4-of-5 first downs on fourth downs.
Harness, starting his fourth season in the backfield, finished with 169 yards on 18 carries while Wright had 63 on 11 carries. Darren O’Risky have 23 yards on three carries and fullback Colton Martin had 18 yards on five carries, including a touchdown.
Jake Bender had three receptions for 53 yards while Neidig had two for 35 yards.
Nick Heldt and Mitchell Kuhn each recovered Rebel fumbles. South Spencer had five fumbles and the Vikings did not cough up the ball in the season opener and did not have a turnover. Alex Goebel had a 23-yard punt return while Bender had a pair for a total of eight yards. Bender also had an interception.
After playing their season opener on the road, the Vikings will now square off against Posey County rivals Mount Vernon in the Posey County News North versus South Bowl with the winner gaining control of the traveling cup. The Vikings won the inaugural game last season 28-0 in Mount Vernon.