LEIPSIC - Leipsic football coach Joe Kirkendall didn't have to look beyond his teams red zone production Friday night to pinpoint the Vikings troubles against Blanchard Valley Conference unbeaten Liberty-Benton.The Vikings were in the red zone four times in the first half and came away with just one touchdown. Meanwhile the Eagles converted two red zone trips in the first half to build a halftime lead on their way to a 35-12 win over the Vikings as John Edwards Field.
The loss dropped the ninth ranked Vikings to 6-2 on the season and 4-2 in the BVC, while the Eagles are 7-0 on the season and 6-0 in the conference.
Going up against one of the BVC's better defenses, Leipsic had their chances to put some pressure on the Eagles. Liberty-Benton's defense was up to the task as they kept the Vikings out of the endzone on their way to the win.
The Eagles took the opening kickoff Friday night and drove 81 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead as Anthony Webb scored on a four yard run. Liberty-Benton opened the game as Nathan Craft hit Joel Bell with a pass he took 47 yards to the Vikings 34. A 28 yard run by Craft two plays later had the Eagles knocking on the door.
After the teams exchanged punts, Leipsic put together a drive that took them to the Eagle nine yard line for a first and goal situation. After Viking quarterback Nate Kuhlman was dropped for a loss on first down, a short run by Jordan Chamberlin and a five yard pass to Garet Bardall gave Leipsic a fourth and goal from the four. On forth down, Kuhlman attempted to hit a receiver with a slant pass that was picked off by the Eagles' Bell in the endzone.
Liberty-Benton took advantage of the stop driving 80 yards in six plays as Bell capped the drive with a 26 yard scoring run giving the Eagles a 14-0 lead.
Leipsic came back with a drive of their own as they drove to the Eagle 11. The first two plays lost yards as the Vikings were facing a third and 20. A seven yard pass to Isaiah Lomeli had Leipsic facing fourth and 13. On fourth down, Kuhlman was forced to scramble and he came up a foot short of picking up a first down at the one yard line.
Leipsic's defense forced a punt and the offense took advantage of a short field to score as Kuhlman dove over from the one yard line. Kuhlman opened the drive with a 32 yard run to the Eagle 18 yard line. The extra point failed making the score 14-6.
Liberty-Benton answered with a 10 play, 65 yard scoring drive as Austin Combs scored on a 12 yard run. The extra point made it a 21-6 game with a minute left in the first half.
Leipsic didn't waste the time they had left in the half as they drove to the Eagle 17. On second down with time winding down, the Eagle defense forced Kuhlman out of the pocket and he was brought down at the 12 yard line as time expired in the half.
"Joe Kirkendall needs to do a better job with his offense in the red zone, flat out, no questions asked," Kirkendall said. "Our kids moved the ball up and down the field against one of the best defenses in the area. I need to do a better job of getting the ball in the endzone. That's the first thing that needs to happen. If I do my job, it might be a tie game at halftime, because that's how well we played early on. That is something we will improve on."
After having visited the red zone four times in the first half, the Viking offense struggled in the second half as the Eagle defense stepped up their game as five of Leipsic's six second half possessions ended with punts.
Leipsic scored with 3:37 left in the game as Lomeli caught a pass at the Eagle five, bounced off a defender and raced into the endzone. The two-point conversion pass failed.
By the time, Leipsic scored the Eagles were in control as they added two second half scores to their first half output. Austin Combs accounted for both scores as he scored on a 74 yard run, then added an 80 yard run. On both scores Combs broke a tackle from the last possible Leipsic defender that could have prevented him from scoring.
Next week the Vikings are at McComb as they look to get back on track and make a strong push towards the post-season.