Niles struggles to score in loss to BearsPublished 11:45pm Friday, October 12, 2012
In recent years, the Niles football team has struggled to score against the St. Joseph defense.
That trend continued on Friday as the Bears beat the Vikings, 21-6, in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West Division action.
It’s the seventh straight loss by Niles to St. Joseph and in those defeats the Vikings have totaled only 40 points.
The loss severely hurts the Vikings’ playoff chances as Niles fell to 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the West Division. The Vikings need to win at Portage Central next Friday to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
“It’s like I told the guys (after the game),” Niles coach Antwon Jones said. “You have two options that you can do. You can look at this and we can go against a tough Portage Central team and play to win and having a winning season for the first time in a long time and have a potential chance for a playoff berth or you can do what you guys have been known to do in the past and blow off that last week and not care.”
Niles was able to move the ball against St. Joseph with its passing game, but negative plays, turnovers and penalties prevented the Vikings from finishing drives. At the end of one drive in the second quarter, the Vikings faced a 4th-and-44 at its own 29-yard line.
Niles drove the ball into St. Joseph territory seven times, but was able to score only one touchdown. Vikings quarterback Cole Clemens completed 25-of-43 passes for 296 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Clemens was sacked four times for a minus-39 yards. Niles rushed for only 44 yards, including a minus-10 yards in the first half.
“We didn’t finish our drives,” Jones said. That’s the bottom line. We were able to move the ball and then we had a silly penalty or missed a block. We had to nickel and dime them (with the passing game) because we couldn’t get the long game going.”
Niles also had its problems on special teams. The Vikings began the game with an onside kick, which didn’t travel 10 yards, giving St. Joseph great field position at Niles’ 45-yard line. Four plays later, St. Joseph’s Alex Rutherford scored on a 3-yard run with 10:37 left in the first quarter. The Bears took that 7-0 lead into halftime.
“That’s my mentality,” Jones said about the onside kick to start the game. “The execution wasn’t there. We’re not finishing the play. We can’t kick the ball 10 yards?”
After being stopped on downs to start the third quarter, Niles had a punt travel only 11 yards, giving St. Joseph the ball at the Vikings 24-yard line. On the next play, Rutherford scored on a 24-yard run to give the Bears a 14-0 lead with 10:43 left in the third quarter.
“I guess that’s why we don’t like to punt in the first place,” Jones said. “I was saying to myself, ‘are we really making it that hard to kick the ball’. It’s like we’re kicking a weighted ball.”
Rutherford rushed for 183 yards on 29 carries with three touchdowns. Rutherford became the school’s all-time career scoring leader with 216 points after rushing 34 yards for a score with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
Niles pulled within 21-6 with 10:01 left in the game after getting a 9-yard touchdown pass from Clemens to Ra’Quon Glenn. A bad snap prevented the Vikings from making the extra-point.
“We didn’t shut down and kept playing hard,” Jones said. “It’s just frustrating. As much as we were moving the ball we should have been winning this game.”
For Niles, Jesse Jordan caught seven passes for 77 yards, Darek Bullock-Mills had six receptions for 39 yards and Fritzel Findeisen totaled four catches for 105 yards.
St. Joseph 7 0 14 0 – 21
Niles 0 0 0 6 – 6
S –Alex Rutherford 3 run (Ryan Kitron kick)
S – Rutherford 24 run (Kitron kick)
S – Rutherford 34 run (Kitron kick)
N – Ra’Quon Glenn 9 pass from Cole Clemens (kick failed)