EATON TWP. — Buckeye was smelling blood when it learned Midview was without All-Ohio defensive back Zach Albright, leading tackler Johnny Walsh and leading rusher Tate Smith because of injuries.
There was one problem: The Bucks forgot about Matt Briggs.
The electric 5-foot-6,
140-pound senior came up with a pair of big special teams plays and lockdown defense to give the Middies an impressive 35-7 non-conference victory.
“It’s great,” Briggs said. “Our fans are out there cheering us on and our band is out there playing every Friday. It’s great.”
“Great” was also a word to describe Briggs, who took over in the first quarter and contributed heavily to Midview (1-2) gaining a 14-0 lead just 8:10 in.
Briggs started the scoring frenzy with a 35-yard kickoff return that led to a physical 14-play, 54-yard drive capped by a 1-yard plunge by fullback Brett Bartone.
Just four plays later, Briggs was at it again as he took a punt from his 28, broke a tackle at the 45 and received a key block downfield from Tony Petrosky for a 72-yard touchdown.
“It was a nice return, but we had good blocks on that,” Briggs said. “Tony Petrosky, without his block down there by the end zone, I probably wouldn’t have it at all.”
Soon thereafter, Tyler Colangelo stepped in front of a flat pass by Buckeye’s Austin Friel (11-for-27, 108 yards, INT) for a 59-yard interception return, and Jacob Bennett added a rushing TD after the Bucks botched a punt on their 1. Just like that, Midview had a 28-0 lead with 8:56 left in the first half despite just 63 yards of total offense.
From there, Briggs flashed his lockdown abilities at cornerback. Last week at Elyria Catholic, Buckeye’s Carlton Watkins had 14 catches for 233 yards. On Friday, Briggs held Watkins to 8 yards on three receptions until garbage time commenced in the fourth quarter.
Suffice to say, it was a big night for Briggs, who added two pass breakups and two big hits on Watkins in space.
“This week Coach (Bill Albright) said, ‘You have No. 7 no matter what,’” Briggs said. “All practice I was practicing not letting anyone behind me.”
With Zach Albright and Smith in shoulder slings and Walsh on crutches, Bennett took care of the rest. The 5-10, 165-pounder was steady all night en route to 26 carries for 169 yards and two touchdowns that certainly made up for two lost fumbles.
The junior was particularly impressive late in the fourth quarter when he put the game on ice with an 11-yard TD that left him with 65 yards on the drive.
“Our backups really stepped up,” Briggs said. “It’s great to have a lot of depth on our team.”
For Buckeye (0-3), it was yet another disappointing performance after showing signs of breaking through against Elyria Catholic.
Zach Maxworthy (three tackles for loss, two sacks) and T.J. Hugney (two TFL) were outstanding as the Bucks held Midview without a first down for the first 19:34 of the second half, but the offense was inconsistent as Friel was running for his life — he had six carries for loss, three of which came courtesy of Petrosky.
Outside of a hard-charging drive by Rick Monroe (14 carries, 86 yards), running between the tackles was difficult as well.
Buckeye finally broke through with a 47-yard run from Friel early in the third quarter, but the Bucks failed on fourth down inside the Midview 10, lost a fumble on the 38 shortly after and had another drive stall inside the 20 midway through the fourth.
“Well, if you don’t play real hard, you’re going to put yourself in position to be behind,” coach Billy Burke said. “That’s what we accomplished in the first half.
“You have to play more than one series physical. We didn’t do that tonight.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043.