Smith, Tigers plow through Norwayne

PHOTO BY PAT GAIETTO Seneca East’s Luke Bischoff brings down Norwayne’s Kaden Kidd Friday in a Division VI regional quarterfinal in Attica.

ATTICA — Seneca East senior guard Dustin Smith is listed at 6-foot, 240 pounds. His fellow linemen, who are big in their own right, faced a huge task Friday night against a massive and talented line from Creston Norwayne in a Division VI regional quarterfinal.

Both lines were having their way defensively as the game was at a standstill for most of the first half until Norwayne defensive end Dominick Roper (6-3, 245) sacked SE quarterback Chase Foos in the end zone for a safety.

With the score 2-0 into the second quarter, Seneca East marched on a 15-play drive that took over seven minutes of the second period.

The Tigers had the ball at Norwayne’s 4 facing a fourth-and-inches.

Coach Phillips sent Smith out there, who was dealing with the massive Bobcat defensive line all night, to play running back.

Smith, who acted like he belonged in the backfield, took the handoff from Foos and bulled his way into the end zone. He then repeated that on the two-point conversion to give the Tigers an 8-2 lead at the half as Seneca East pulled away for a 14-2 victory.

“It’s a team thing. I couldn’t have done it without the people up front,” Smith said. “The line is absolutely awesome. They gave me the ball and I did my best for the team because it’s a team sport and I love my team. I’d do anything for them.

“I’ve never played running back before (growing up), but I always watched guys like Peyton Hillis and Mike Alstott and stuff like that and I love it. I put on my goal sheet to try some fullback or some running back. I went in a couple times and I liked it. I’m not the best, but I give my 100%, but I still couldn’t do it without my line, they did awesome tonight.”

The Seneca East defensive line paved the way for the best defensive performance the Tigers (10-1) have put on display this season, which came at a good time.

The Bobcats (5-6) didn’t score a touchdown and compiled just 51 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Quarterback Nate Bitskay was 12 of 29 passing for 158 yards — a lot of that came on the final drive.

“That was impressive by our defensive line and our coaching staff. Our kids do an outstanding job all the time, but I don’t mention our coaching staff enough. Son-of-a-gun, did they dial it up tonight on both sides of the ball when we needed to,” Phillips said. “That Norwayne football team is really, really good. The first thing I told our kids was that they weren’t 5-5. They are one of the best teams in the region.

“It didn’t go too well for us at first because they were controlling the line of scrimmage and then they got that safety on us. That kind of showed the guts our kids have because stuff like that happens and they don’t put their heads down, they play the next play and the next series. To win that game 14-2 … that fun.”

Down just 8-2 coming out of the half, Norwayne was right in the contest.

The Bobcats put together a solid drive, getting down to Seneca East’s 15. Then Bitskay dropped back to pass and stared down his receiver on a slant pass. SE’s Elijah Riggs — who already had a fumble recovery in the game — stepped in front of the pass and took it the other way in a huge momentum swing.

“Coach Phillips has a nice team and they battled. It’s a veteran team that was ready to play and ready to fight for each other,” Norwayne coach Adam Indorf said. “It’s been the story with us all season the little mistakes that kill ourselves on some drives or fumble the ball here and there or the interception, so it’s a tribute to our kids because they didn’t give up.

“If we would’ve had a few more opportunities at the end, maybe it could have gone differently, but some of that is on us. We have to make sure we limiting those mistakes.”

Seneca East iced the game after the interception as Smith helped move the chains on a third-and-1 and then on third-and-inches before Kane Lynch ran in a 2-yard TD to give the Tigers the 14-2 advantage.

“I get made fun of because that’s a football team and I couldn’t do it without any of these guys,” Smith said with a smile about him being in the backfield. “We are always working and we are playing so hard. You just have to do your job. I did my job tonight when I was back there and the line did their job as well.”

Phillips added: “We put that formation in in the summer and we’ve run it some here this season. Dustin at the beginning of the year wasn’t there a lot because we were pretty raw in the O-line,” he said. “Evan Fitch had really improved so it has given us the ability to put Dustin back there at tailback.

“I knew when we put him back there that we were going to get the first down on that first one and then at the goal line when we had a yard and a half to go, I knew they weren’t stopping him. I knew he would give us a boost when we needed it. I didn’t know when it would come, but when it did, boy, was he ready for it.”

Foos tallied 160 total yards for the Tigers, while Skyler Walker recorded 81 total yards as he returned from injury.

The Tigers move on to face East Knox (11-0) Friday at a neutral site yet to be determined.