Times Sports Editor
WEST TERRE HAUTE -- The battle for the Western Indiana Conference championship was everything that most expected on Friday night.
The game was physical, intense and for much of the contest, a defensive struggle. Fittingly, it was a defensive player that provided the biggest play of the night as an 80-yard interception return by Northview sophomore, Jesse Miller, proved to be the death blow for West Vigo as the Knights won 35-7 for a second straight WIC title.
"The kids stepped up to the challenge," Northview coach Gettle said. "We preached all week that our non-conference schedule, playing at Terre Haute North, at Brebeuf, at Edgewood, at Owen Valley and now, at West Vigo, we're battle tested. I told the kids, if you'll play hard and play emotional and do your job, we're battle tested on the road. The kids stepped up and did it. It's always nice to win a conference championship."
Northview's defense was the story for much of the evening, holding the Vikings to just 25 yards rushing on 22 first half carries. Meanwhile, the Northview offense got on the board with a one-play strike from quarterback Trent Lancaster to Andrew Butts for a 41-yard TD with 1:04 left in the first quarter.
Damon Hyatt set up the score by intercepting West Vigo quarterback, Lance Garrett on a tipped pass and returning it into Vikings' territory.
Northview's offense was fairly quiet in the first half too, but utilized its defense to set up a pair of short drive TD's.
Northview got a pair of sacks, one from Chance Talbot and a combined effort from Aaron See and Bryant Pestoff to force a punt for the Vikings, facing a fourth-and-29 from their own 15-yard line. Butts caught the punt and returned it back to the Vikings 10-yard line. One play later, Lancaster dashed in for the score, virtually untouched for a 14-0 halftime lead.
West Vigo took the second half kickoff and appeared set to do some of its own offensive damage, moving into Northview territory on an 18-yard pass from Garrett to Jacob Creasey and a 10-yard strike to Drew Aff. With the ball on the Knights' 39-yard line, Garrett hit Jacob Cobble for a short gain, but he fumbled the ball and Taylor Pinnick recovered for Northview.
With an opportunity to add to its lead, Northview moved the ball quickly on a 10-yard run by Larry Shaffer and an eight-yard dash by Lancaster. On the fifth play of the drive, Lancaster found Zac Niehaus in the corner of the endzone for a 30-yard score and a 21-0 lead.
West Vigo would answer however on its next drive.
Garrett found Aff for an 18-yard gain into the Knights half of the field and then he threw a screen pass to the senior speedster, who dashed down the sideline for a Viking score with 6:13 left in the third period.
The tide began to turn a bit as Northview drove down the field on the back of Shaffer, who carried three times for 27 yards. With the ball on the Vikings' 43-yard line, Lancaster found Butts for a long gain on third down for 29 yards.
The Knights had a first down at the 14-yard line, but Lancaster was intercepted for the second time by Aff on a second tipped pass. Aff returned the ball back to midfield and the Vikings were starting to gain confidence.
West Vigo moved the ball down to the Knights' 20-yard line and Garrett dropped back to pass against a heavy rush by Northview. The senior QB was hit as he threw and Miller grabbed the errant throw and showed off his speed by racing down the sideline for the backbreaking score.
"When West Vigo got a little momentum there in the second half, Jesse Miller picked off a pass on fourth down after we hit the quarterback and Jesse ran it all the way back for a touchdown. Humongous play," Gettle said of the tide turning interception.
Garrett was also injured on the play and didn't return the remainder of the game.
From there, Northview controlled the remainder of the contest, finishing off the fourth quarter by driving the ball on the ground.
Northview ran the ball seven times on the final drive, moving the ball 8-yards as Hyatt ripped off runs of 33 and 13 yards before finishing with a four-yard score with 10 seconds left.
"I'm proud that we were able to run the ball at times when we needed to," Gettle said. "We saw some things on film that we thought we could do some things. It worked and we drove the ball down the field running the football. We've struggled with being able to do that. That's a positive going into week nine."
Northview improves to 6-2 overall and is 5-0 in the WIC with next week's final regular season game at Lucas Oil Field on Saturday night against Brown County beginning at 7:30 p.m.
At West Vigo
Nv -- Trent Lancaster 41-yard pass to Andrew Butts (Trey Boor kick), 1:04
Nv -- Trent Lancaster 10-yard run (Boor kick), 3:04
Nv -- Lancaster 30-yard pass to Zac Niehaus (Boor kick), 7:31
WV -- Lance Garrett 41-yard pass to Drew Aff (Nathan Gregg kick), 6:13
Nv -- Jesse Miller 80-yard interception return (Boor kick), 0:57
Nv -- Damon Hyatt four-yard run (Boor kick), 10.4
Rushing -- Nv (Hyatt 8-61 TD, Lancaster 20-71 TD, Shaffer 4-37), WV (Aff 6-311, Lydick 9-(-1), Garrett 10-3, Flescher 8-37, Soliday 4-(-2).
Passing -- Nv (Lancaster 7-15 166 yards, 2 TD, 3 Int.), WV (Garrett 7-16 114 yards, 1 TD, 2 Int., Soliday 0-2 0 yards).
Receiving -- Nv (Niehaus 2-35 TD, Butts 5-131 TD), WV (Aff 3-58 TD, Thornton 1-10, Cobble 2-11, Soliday 1-9, Creasey 1-18).