The Final Score: Moral victories do exist, like it or not

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Casstown Miami East is looking for its third winning season in 19 years this season.

Friday night the majority of high school football teams in Ohio played their first game.

Half of them won and half of them lost. I beg to differ that the
percentage of winners was just 50-percent. Coaches may not want to hear
this, but yes, there are such things as moral victories.

This is the story of one such win.


Friday night the majority of high school football teams in Ohio played their first game.

Half of them won and half of them lost. I beg to differ that the percentage of winners was just 50-percent. Coaches may not want to hear this, but yes, there are such things as moral victories.

This is the story of one such win.

Casstown Miami East has had success in a variety of sports. The Vikings girls basketball team is always solid and their boys program won a state title in 1996 and finished runner-up to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and LeBron James in 2001. Wrestler Ryan Gambill just wrapped a career in which he won three state titles.

Football, however, has lagged.

Since its first season in 1959, the Vikings have won two league titles: one in 1965 in the Mad River Valley League (co-championship) and one in 1983 in the Southwestern Rivers Conference (only outright title in history).

The ratio is one league title every 25 years.

In the late 1990s the program lost over 30 consecutive games. In 2006 Miami East snapped a 16-game losing streak. Over the last 18 years the Vikings have two winning seasons. This year’s senior class was 0-10 as freshmen.

Friday, Miami East lost to West Milton Milton-Union.

The Vikings are 0-1. Technically.

Despite the defeat, Miami East can hold its head high. The Vikings are going to be OK. They are going to contend for the Cross County Conference title and they are going to contend for a spot in the Division V playoffs.

This is a storybook season that got off to a nightmarish start.

Heading into this season Miami East had to contend with something it hasn’t had in a longtime – expectations.

East already had a historic run last season.

A year ago the Vikings went 8-2 in the regular season and earned the school’s first ever postseason berth. The reward? A first round trip to Maria Stein and a match up with eventual Division V state champion Marion Local. No shame in losing to the Flyers, everyone did last year.

The magic number heading into this season for East though was 17 – as in 17 starters back, including first team All-Ohio running back Sam Smallwood.

A senior, Smallwood became just the second Miami East player in history to earn first team All-Ohio honors last season when he ran for a school single season record 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns. The only other Viking to make first team all-state is center Dick Powell who was first team in 1972 and 1973. Smallwood (5-7, 185) is trying to match that mark.

In addition to last season’s run, there have been other high-water marks in Miami East football history.

From 1975 to 1984 the Vikings had nine winning seasons, won one league title and finished second four times. In 1983, Miami East beat Versailles 9-8 at Hole Field in Week 10, during Al Hetrick’s heyday, to claim their last league title. In 1968 the Tigers ended Versailles’ 29-game win streak.

The Vikings best season was arguably in 1980 when they finished 8-1-1 and ranked No. 6 in the Class AA state poll. A defense nicknamed the “Blue Wave” led the charge that season, setting multiple school records that still stand today, including shutouts (seven), fewest points allowed (20) and fewest total yards allowed in a season (851 in 10 games).

Max Current was a senior and the leader of that 1980 defense. Today he’s the head coach.

The story gets better.

Current, a two-time All-Ohioan as a nosegaurd, took over the program in 1999. He led the Vikings to their first winning season (6-4) since 1989 in 2001. Last year he drove them to the playoffs.

Friday he couldn’t lead them past Milton-Union.

The Bulldogs and Vikings rivalry goes back a long time. The Miami County opponents have met 30 times with Milton-Union winning 19.

In 1979, Miami East snapped the Bulldogs 22-game win streak. The Dogs haven’t forgotten.

Prior to Friday Milton-Union had won its last five games against Miami East by the combined score of 156-18. Last year, the Bulldogs won 41-0.

Miami East has a penchant for playing poorly in openers though.

Since 2001, the Vikings had been outscored in their first game 234-27.

Friday, East scored 28.

The Vikings also gave away 14.

They lost by seven, 35-28.

Expectations can cramp your style if you don’t know how to handle them, and East clearly didn’t in the first quarter. The Vikings got the ball and fumbled on the third play. Milton-Union recovered and scored five plays later. On the next possession Miami East mishandled the snap on a punt and turned the ball over on its 25-yardline. Five plays later Milton-Union scored.

The Vikings rallied but you can’t expect to give a team like Milton-Union (looking for a fourth straight playoff berth in Division IV) freebies. Especially not on the road.

So…lesson learned.

Moral victory won.

Now for the real thing.

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