Note: This recap appears in the Sunday, Sept. 8 newspaper on Page B1.
SUGAR GROVE — Coming into its week two road trip at Berne Union, the Alexander Spartans were the only team in the TVC-Ohio who had earned a win.
After a well-rounded 33-12 victory over the Rockets, they remain the only one that is undefeated. For the first time since 2014, the Alexander Spartans are 2-0.
The win did not come easy, however. The Spartans had to travel to Berne Union, a solid program that qualified for the playoffs last season. And while they may be starting a freshman at quarterback, Nate Nemeth proved no slouch and the team showed just as much grit and tenacity as previous years.
“They had graduated a couple of skill position players, but they returned a lot of aggressive offensive and defensive linemen,” said Spartans head coach Earich Dean. “We knew we were in for a dog fight.”
The Rockets sent a loud message early on that they were going to shut down the Spartans’ rushing game. No matter; senior quarterback Kaleb Easley proved that the Spartans can win with its passing game, too. When Berne Union tried to stack the box to stop the run, Easley threw downfield.
“He did a great job of stepping up in the pocket and making great throws,” said Dean. “And, he did all that with a pretty good rush. He’s really grown a lot over the past couple of years.”
On the Spartans’ third possession, Easley found Chase Siefert deep to set up a first and goal. This allowed Easley to strike the first blow himself when he plunged in from one yard out to take the early 7-0 lead.
Easley wasn’t finished, however. After the Rockets answered with a Nick Heilman 48-yard touchdown run, Easley responded with more deep passing. On the first play in the second quarter, Easley hit Matthew Brown deep for a 60 yard touchdown pass. Easley repeated that connection with Brown on their next possession, hitting him again for a 22-yard strike.
“If I saw the safety coming down, that’s when I knew I could get one-on-one with Matthew,” said Easley. “But none of that happens if the line doesn’t give me the protection I got. The line gets the credit.”
Still, the Rockets weren’t going down without a fight. As the second half drew to a close, the home team methodically drove down the field. With 12 seconds on the clock, they had the ball at the Alexander Spartans for a pivotal fourth-and-goal play.
Quarterback Nate Nemeth ran the draw play, and appeared to have open field into the end zone until the Spartans stopped him inches from the goal and prevented him from falling forward. In the scramble to keep Nemeth from scoring, Alexander was flagged for a late hit. However, as the penalty was called a dead-ball foul, the Spartans were awarded possession on downs and escaped to the locker rooms with a 21-6 halftime lead.
“That stand was huge,” said Dean. “They had the ball coming out in the second half, so that 21-6 lead could have easily become 21-21.”
Dean’s Spartans took control in the second half too. First, they recovered a squibbed kickoff to take the first possession after halftime. Then, the Spartans slowed the game down with their running game, led by Easley and Jordan Cantrell, who scored two second half touchdowns.
That said, the defensive effort should be noted, too. They gave up just six first downs and 132 yards of offense.
“I’m proud of the kids,” said Dean. “I thought they played hard. The defense stepped up all night. They had to be on the field a lot because a lot of our scores were quick drives [in the first half]. They got tired, but they hung in there.”
Next week, the Spartans face off against South Point (1-1) at home, who they defeated last year. If this game proved anything, it’s that the Spartans are a well-rounded, mature team that is ready for a challenge.
Alexander 33, Berne Union 12
Alexander 7 14 6 6 — 33
Berne Union 6 0 0 6 — 12
A – Kaleb Easley 1 yd rush, (Kyler D’Augustino kick), 2:48 1st
BU – Nick Heilman 48 yd rush, (kick blocked), 1:07 1st
A – Matthew Brown 60 yd pass from Easley, (D’Augustino kick), 11:46 2nd
A – Brown 22 yd pass from Easley, (D’Augustino kick), 6:17 2nd
A – Jordan Cantrell 5 yd rush, (run failed), 10:18 3rd
A – Cantrell 2 yd run, (kick failed), 3:31 4th
BU – Heilman 2yd run, (kick failed), 1:06 4th
First downs 13 6
scrimmage 60 49
Rushing (plys-yds) 46-173 26-92
Passing yards 167 40
Total net yards 340 132
Passes (cmp-att-int) 5-9-0 8-18-0
Fumbles (no-lost) 1-1 1-1
Penalties 13-92 12-95
Punts (no-avg) 5-32.6 5-34.6
Alexander – Jordan Cantrell 18-87 2TD, Kaleb Easley 22-71 TD, Michael Kelly 4-17, team 2-(-2); Berne Union – Nick Heilman 14-72 2TD, Nate Nemeth 12-19, Colt McCormick 2-1
Alexander – Kaleb Easley 5-9-0-167 2TD; Berne Union – Nate Nemeth 8-17-0-40, Nick Heilman 0-1-0-0
Alexander – Matthew Brown 3-111 2TD, Chase Seifert 1-40, Luke Chapman 1-15, Michael Kelly 1-1; Berne Union – Jacob Hurst 4-22, Jacob Harmon 2-15, Sammy Amnah 1-6, Nick Heilman 1-(-3)