MECHANICSBURG – Quarterback Kaleb Romero rushed for 206 yards and passed for 45 in the first half alone to lead the undefeated Indians to a 22-0 edge by intermission in a Division VI, Region 24 quarterfinal Friday night. Associated Press fifth-ranked Mechanicsburg went on to claim a 39-6 victory over visiting Miami East.
The Indians (11-0) advance to play Delphos Jefferson (10-1) next Friday night at a site to be determined.
Mechanicsburg’s Dustin Knapp carried 10 times for 73 yards Friday night including a touchdown in the first half to keep pounding the Vikings (7-4), who provided a couple of sudden scares but could not sustain any potent drives.
The Indians’ first touchdown was set up by a key pass from Romero to Camron Atchison and a Knapp first-down run. Romero completed the drive on a 2-yard touchdown jolt with 6:37 left in the first quarter. Alex Rhine threaded the uprights for a PAT and Burg had a 7-0 lead.
Miami East went three-and-out on its first offensive drive and punted away.
Romero powered Mechanicsburg’s second series of the game on the ground, including a long running play for a first down all the way to the Viking 3-yard line. Finishing a powerful scoring drive that started at 4:54 of the first quarter, Knapp’s 3-yard touchdown run came at 1:35. The extra-point kick failed, but MHS was up 13-0.
Miami East continued to struggle on offense and punted away heading into the second quarter. Mechanicsburg started at its own 13, but sputtered on the drive – forcing M’burg Coach Kurt Forrest to rapidly burn his final two timeouts of the first half just to keep the drive on track.
The Indians responded consistently to the coaching boosts and the unfamiliar adversity as Romero broke out for a 20-yard run and a first down to dig his team out of a field position hole. Romero later tore off a 38-yard dash for a first down near midfield. Knapp notched a first down at the Viking 21, Romero dove for a key first down at the Viking 7 and then followed up with a 7-yard touchdown sweep into the left side of the end zone just out of the grasp of a Viking defender. The PAT failed, but Burg was in control, 19-0, with 3:21 left in the first half.
The Indians punctuated their dominance of the first half when Rhine nailed a 42-yard field goal with one second left before intermission for a 22-0 lead.
Knapp fumbled it away at the 7:13 mark of the third quarter – the second turnover of the game for the Indians – giving the Vikings the ball at their own 35 and an opportunity to switch momentum in the game. A penalty on Mechanicsburg set up Miami East at midfield where the Vikings started chipping away. But on a fourth down in Indian territory, Rhine intercepted a Miami East pass to suffocate the threat.
Romero made the Vikings pay on the ensuing series, tearing off a big run for a first down at the Miami East 22. Mechanicsburg capped off the 10-play scoring drive on a Romero-to-Drew Meyers 3-yard TD pass with 2 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Romero converted on the run for two points after the touchdown to give his team a 30-0 lead and a running clock to start the fourth quarter.
Miami East gave up a safety early in the fourth quarter for a 32-0 Indian margin. Mechanicsburg’s Joey Mascadri scored a 1-yard TD with 5:33 to play and Rhine’s PAT was good for a 39-0 lead. At the 4:09 mark, the Indian starters exited the field facing the sideline in a line and joined hands raised high in formation to salute the home crowd.
Miami East subsequently recovered a Mechanicsburg fumble at the Indian 21. The Vikings scored on a Kaleb Nickels 3-yard dash as time ran out to avoid the shutout.