Vikings beat Sturgis 24-6 in Wolverine Conference debut

NILES — A new era in Niles football began with a bang Thursday night.

The Vikings used a solid defense, along with some timely scoring plays, to knock off visiting Sturgis 24-6 in their Wolverine Conference debut. It was also the debut of Head Coach Scot Shaw.

Thanks to the Hess brothers — Colin and Paul — Niles was able to win its season opener for the first time since 2018. Colin Hess led the Viking offense, while Paul Hess led the defense.

Colin Hess rushed for 132 yards on 19 carries and scored three times. His touchdown runs covered 19, 4 and 1 yard. Paul Hess had 14 tackles to lead the defensive effort.

Colin Hess said he was happy to get a win in the debut of his new head coach and in the Vikings’ new conference. But he and his teammates are not satisfied winning just the first game.

“I feel like we played well, but I feel we can improve,” Hess said. “We had a late turnover. We need to get more going on offense and more going on defense. We need to stay more consistent. No more bad drives and no more penalties. We had a lot of penalties tonight.”

With that being said, Colin Hess is ready to take in the victory with his teammates.

“It is a good win, and we are going to enjoy it this weekend,” he said. “We are going to rest up and be ready for Buchanan next week.”

Although the final score may look like the Vikings dominated the game, they took charge and did not sealed the deal until the final three minutes of the contest.

Leading just 12-6, Colin Hess scored his final touchdown with 2:44 left on the clock.

“He had a nice game,” Shaw said. “He is a load. So is our other fullback. Talon [Brawley] made some pretty good reads. He’s got the keys, but he is still on a very tight GPS. He made a really good check down on our touchdown in the first half.”

On the ensuing offensive possession for Sturgis, freshman Sam Rucker scooped up a fumble and raced 20 yards for the game’s final score with 2:44 remaining. Sturgis did not move the ball on its final possession and chose to punt.

While the Niles offense sputtered at times, it could count on its defense to lead the way. The Trojans never really threatened to score outside of the one touchdown, which came when the Vikings turned the ball over deep in their own territory.

“We were commenting standing here on the sideline with about four minutes to go it was 12-6, and we had fourth down,” Shaw said. “There was a big turn of events there. I am proud of our kids because they stayed with it, and they did what we told them to do, and that was ‘let’s finish.’ That always hasn’t happened around here, I guess, but it did tonight.”

The Vikings (1-0, 1-0 Wolverine) finished with 219 yards rushing. Niles did not complete any of the three passes it threw.

Sturgis was held to 32 yards on the ground and 59 through the air. The Niles defense never allowed the Trojan offense to find any type of rhythm.

“Other than the score that they got, they were never close,” Shaw said of his defense. “They played very well. I was very pleased with them. In particular, Defensive Coach Kyle Michael had a great game plan for them, which helps.”

The Vikings will get right to work Friday as they begin preparation to face Buchanan Thursday. Kickoff at Memorial Field in Buchanan is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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