Niles routs Tigers to move within one win of playoff berth
By By DAN WEISS / Niles Daily Star
BENTON HARBOR -- For the third season in a row, the Niles football team will be playing for a state playoff berth next week after a 36-0 rout of Benton Harbor Friday night.
The win lifted Niles' overall record to 5-1, just one game away from the six-game threshold to qualify for the playoffs, and 2-0 in the West Division of the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference.
Much like Niles' victory over Lakeshore a week ago, the Vikings benefited Friday night from a number of mistakes and turnovers by the host Tigers.
Benton Harbor fumbled the ball eight times and lost six of those to Niles. Stacy Caskey, Tyler Yost, Alex Robinson, James Edwards, Eddie Fultz and Jeff Pugh each had a fumble recovery for the Vikings.
The teams played through a steady mist of rain and wind in the first half before the rain finally let up after halftime.
Niles took an early 7-0 lead after a fumbled punt attempt gave the Vikings' their first possession on the Benton Harbor 15-yard line. Jason Rutkowske finished the drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak and Marcus Lawshea kicked the extra point.
In the beginning of the second quarter Lonnie Jones finished another Niles drive with a seven-yard touchdown run. Lawshea again kicked the extra point.
With just 21 seconds left in the half, Ivery Cross made an acrobatic catch of a 15-yard pass from Rutkowske for the Vikings' third touchdown. Lawshea kicked another extra point to give Niles a 21-0 halftime lead.
Taking the opening kickoff of the second half, Niles drove the ball 44 yards and finished with a four-yard touchdown by Jones. Lawshea's extra point gave Niles a 28-0 lead.
Lawshea's 47-yard punt to the Benton Harbor one-yard line set up Niles' next score. On second-and-seven from the four-yard line, Byron Broyles was tackled in the end zone by a swarm of Vikings for a safety, giving Niles a 30-0 lead.
The final score of the game came early in the fourth quarter when Josh Schoenthaler capped off a 22-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run. A high snap on the extra-point attempt resulted in an incomplete pass and the Vikings settled for a 36-0 lead.
Niles rushed the ball for 181 yards and threw for just 19 yards.
Jones finished with a season-low 90 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. Schoenthaler toted the ball 11 times for 70 yards and one touchdown.
Jones now has 1,249 yards on the season and has scored 15 touchdowns.
Janicki said his team is not concerned with individual accomplishments, only the team's successes.