McARTHUR, Ohio — The Vinton County Vikings exploded for 41 second half points and stunned a banged-up Meigs Marauder team 41-29 Friday evening in the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division opener for both teams.
The Vikings spotted the Marauders a 14-0 lead at the half, but behind the play of junior quarterback Naylan Yates — the hosts stormed back in the second half to win their first contest of the season.
Meigs was playing its first game without all-state quarterback/linebacker Cody Bartrum, who suffered a foot injury last week against Logan.
Lane Cullums wasn’t expected to play for the Marauders, but was pressed into play when speedster Tyler Garrettson was injured in the first period and was unable to return.
The Marauders received the opening kickoff and were forced to punt on a four-and-out, but Layne Acree’s punt was bobbled by Caleb Montgomery and Bailey Caruthers recovered for Meigs at the Viking 19. Five plays later, Garrettson scored from two yards out. Acre added the extra point and Meigs was on top 7-0.
A Yates punt pinned the Marauders back to their own 16 yard line. On first down, Cullums broke off a 35 yard scamper. Zach Helton hit Caruthers for a 32-yard scoring toss, and Acree’s kick with 6:45 left made it 14-0 Marauders.
The Vikings threatened late in the second period after driving inside the Meigs 18, but the threat ended when Caruthers picked off a Yates pass.
Vinton County received the second half kickoff and quickly went to work, driving 63 yards in 12 plays and hit pay dirt when Yates found Hunter Nichols on a screen pass and Nichols took it 30 yards for the score.
Eli Downs cut the Meigs lead in half with the extra points. Just over a minute later, the Vikings scored to tie the game at 14.
A bad snap to Helton on third down was recovered by Steve Stepien at the Marauder 26. Three plays later, Yates hit Montgomery with a pass in the corner of the end zone for the score. Downs kick was true and the score was tied at 14 at the 5:37 mark of the third period.
A short Vinton County punt gave the Marauders good field position at the Viking 38, and six plays later Helton hit Bartum for a 22-yard scoring toss on fourth down. Acree made it 21-14 Marauders with 1:16 left in the third.
It didn’t take the Vikings long to tie the game. On third and three, Yates went up the middle 51 yards for the score. Downs made it 21-all heading into what ended up a wild fourth period.
A bad snap with Meigs in punt formation gave the Vikings great field position at the 15. Four plays later, Yates scored from three yards out and the Vikings had their first lead of the night at 27-21.
After the score, Meigs was on the move after driving into Viking territory. On second down, Helton tried to hit Bartrum — but the pass was low and appeared to bounce off the ground.
The ball was then kicked into the arms of Nichols, who returned it 68 yards for the score. Downs made it 34-21 in favor of Vinton County.
The Vikings then held Meigs on downs deep in Marauder territory, taking over at the 17. Yates iced the cake with a 15-yard scoring run. Downs made it 41-21 Vikings with 2:19 left.
The Marauders scored with 1:22 left when Helton hit Caruthers from 10 yards out. Lane Cullums added the extra points to make the final score 41-29.
Helton played well in his first game at quarterback, going 15-of-31 for 202 yards and three scores. He also led Meigs on the ground with 78 yards on 14 carries. Cullums added 60 yards on 14 tries. Bartrum led Meigs with four catches for 84 yards, while Caruthers added four for 74 yards.
Yates led the Vikings with 147 rushing yards in 24 tries. He was also 12-of-30 in the air for 189 yards and two scores. Nichols caught three passes for 103 yards.
The Marauders loss drops them to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the TVC Ohio. Meigs returns home next Friday for homecoming against River Valley. Vinton County travels to Athens.
Dave Harris is a sports correspondent for Ohio Valley Publishing.