The Spartans used big plays to diminish early Middie leads and added more big plays to eventually take — and grow — a second-half lead.
Junior wide receiver Jaleel King’s 32-yard jet-sweep touchdown pass to sophomore Jermaine Daniel proved to be the game-winner. The play gave the Spartans their first lead (20-14) midway through the third quarter.
“It was one of the things we talked about, stopping the big play,” said Engleka, whose squad was 0-10 in 2016, his first season at the helm. “We didn’t stop the big play tonight. When they scored their third touchdown on a third-down play, that was obviously a big moment in the game.”
Middletown also surrendered scoring plays of 73, 77, and 52 yards. The largest of the three was caught, rather than thrown, by King. He ended the contest with two touchdowns (one passing, one receiving), and caught four passes for 97 yards.
Spartans senior quarterback Adrine Mitchell was an efficient 11 of 17 for 173 yards and a touchdown through the air, and was also the game’s leading rusher with 121 yards on 21 carries. His TD runs of 3 and 52 yards, respectively, in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.
“We went into the locker room and talked about the mistakes that we needed to clean up,” Mitchell said. “In the second half, we came out and spread the ball around and starting moving the chains.”
Second-year Lima coach Andre Griffin echoed his quarterback’s sentiment and even went a step further by explaining it.
“We made a lot of mistakes early on,” Griffin said. “We had overthrows, fumbles and bobbles. I think we were a little nervous tonight, which is something that always happens in an opening game of a season. I’m happy that we were able to overcome the mistakes and find a way to win.”
The Spartans’ execution certainly tightened up in the second half, but the Middies pressured Lima into turnovers throughout, racking up four total. Middletown recovered three fumbles (two on kickoffs) and intercepted Mitchell once, but simply could not turn any of them into points.
Senior running back Diondre Cooper ran for 87 yards on 16 carries for the Middies. His 21-yard run late in the first quarter gave Middletown its first lead of the game at 7-0.
Senior quarterback Zach Maloney was right behind Cooper in the rushing category for the night, rushing for 80 yards on 16 carries. Maloney completed 18 of 39 passes for 132 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. His 27-yard TD pass to classmate Blake Marshall extended a 7-6 lead to a 14-6 advantage.
The Middies will be at home against Springboro next Friday, while Lima hosts Columbus Eastmoor.
Lima Senior 6-7-7-14—34
M: Diondre Cooper 21 run (Sa’Mill Calhoun kick)
L: Xavier Nichols 73 run (Kick failed)
M: Blake Marshall 27 pass from Zach Maloney (Angel Rivera kick)
L: Jaleel King 77 pass from Adrine Mitchell (Cole Mericle kick)
L: Jermaine Daniel 32 pass from King (Mericle kick)
L: Mitchell 2 run (Mericle kick)
L: Mitchell 52 run (Mericle kick)