Trojans stifled by Titans, still postseason bound

GRAETTINGER – One knee ligament was enough to stifle Northeast Hamilton’s usually high-powered offense here Friday night.

OK, perhaps the opposing defense had something to do with it as well.

The Trojans were held without an offensive touchdown for the first time all season and their three-game winning streak ended at the hands of Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire, 34-8, in Class 8-man District 2 action.

NEH (5-3, 3-3) averaged 48 points per game during its three-game surge, but a sprained MCL limited the effectiveness of senior tailback Tyler Smith and G-T/R-A took advantage. The Titans (5-3, 4-2) limited Smith to just 51 yards rushing on 13 carries.

Smith was kept on the sideline for much of the second half. His injury occurred during the fourth quarter of the Trojans’ Week 7 44-30 victory over Laurens-Marathon.

“They are good defensively, but obviously Tyler’s injury hurt us,” NEH head coach John Seiser said. “He just didn’t have the speed to do anything. There were opportunities to make some big runs like he’s done, but it just wasn’t there.”

Smith entered the game with 1,454 yards on the ground – the second-best total in the class. His availability for the final week of the regular season and the playoffs remains in question.

“We haven’t decided anything and we’ll just see how he’s running this week,” Seiser said. “We can use somebody else back there, but it’s also Tyler’s senior year, so we’ll probably let him make a decision.”

With Smith ailing, the Titans teed off on the short-handed NEH offense. The Trojans finished with just 200 yards of total offense, 123 of which came on the ground.

“They’ve got really good size and they just blitzed us from every direction,” Seiser said.

There were openings to burn G-T/R-A through the air, but dropped passes – Seiser says he counted six on the night – only added to the frustration.

Senior quarterback Logan Seiser completed 6 of 18 passes for 77 yards. The drops even forced Smith back onto the field at times in the second half in a receiver’s role. He caught four passes for 34 yards; Nick Jeffers snagged two for 43 yards.

“You want to make them pay for the blitzing by dumping some passes off, but we couldn’t catch them,” John Seiser said. “We cannot catch the ball and it’s ridiculous. It’s killing us right now.”

G-T/R-A took control in the first half when it jumped out to a 20-0 lead. Signal caller Marcus Girres threw touchdown passes that covered 19 and 24 yards to Jake Wegener and Garrett Parker, and Kyle Dalen broke off a 52-yard scoring run.

Michael Girres added a 42-yard sprint to the house 19 seconds into the fourth quarter to extend the margin to 28-0.

NEH senior Gabe Rapp took the ensuing kickoff 64 yards down the field and to the end zone to erase the goose egg.

Mason McGrauth – the fifth different Titan to score a TD – ran the ball in from 39 yards away with 4:55 remaining.

“They have 23 seniors and juniors and they rotate guys like crazy,” John Seiser said. “They use all of those guys really well.”

Rapp continued to have a stellar defensive season, as he piled up 22 tackles – 11 solo stops and a whopping 22 assists – from his linebacker spot. Logan Seiser added 11 tackles, including a pair of sacks.

“I think Gabe and Logan played their best defensive games of the year,” John Seiser said. “(The Titans) are primarily a running team and we did a good job of stopping them up front.”

NEH will close out the regular season with homecoming against winless CAL (0-8, 0-6) on Friday. Win or lose, the Trojans will be in the postseason when the first round of the state playoffs takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 30. They will be the district’s No. 4 seed.