By James Adams
MOUNT HEALTHY, Ohio – Mount Healthy advanced to the second round of the Division II playoffs, 40-19 by knocking off Withrow at the Owls Nest on Friday.
Senior wide receiver and defensive back Tyree Elliott led the Owls to the victory with four touchdowns, 106 yards on offense and three interceptions.
At one point in the first half Elliott took over the game, scoring three consecutive touchdowns to give his team a 26-6 half time advantage.
“I’m feeling back – I’ve been contained by a high ankle sprain and it’s my senior year so I went all out tonight,” said Elliott.
Mount Healthy (10-1) came out sluggish to start the second half, and the Tigers capitalized with two touchdown catches by senior wide receiver Aaron Harris to pull within seven points.
“Sometimes our kids get so fired up they lose focus,” said head coach Arvie Crouch. “Not to take away from their defense – Reggie Howard is one heck of a player and he gave us fits all night.”
Withrow (8-3) continuously hurt itself by turning the ball over, giving up the football six different times Friday. Perhaps none of them were bigger than senior quarterback Malik Bland’s fumble in the fourth quarter right after the Tigers defense forced a punt in a one-score game.
Even after giving the Owls a short field on that fumble, Withrow had a chance to hold on a fourth and goal from the six, but sophomore quarterback David Montgomery hit Tyree Elliott for his fourth touchdown of the game, giving Mount Healthy a more comfortable cushion once again.
“I feel real comfortable with Tyree,” Montgomery said. “We make plays together because we’ve got chemistry.”
The Owls did most of their damage on the ground as they dominated the line of scrimmage, gaining 248 yards rushing behind a big offensive line.
Defensively, Mount Healthy also controlled the line of scrimmage allowing just 46 rushing yards vs. the Tigers while recording three sacks and scoring on a fumble recovery in the end zone by junior defensive end Milan Lanier.
“We just fly to the ball, eleven helmets to the ball,” said senior linebacker Jordan Lackey.
Jordan and his twin brother, defensive lineman Justin, had all three sacks between them in a night where the Owls made school history by winning the school’s first home play off game.
“It’s cool, we’ll be 60 or 70 still saying, you remember high school when we won that first home playoff game for the Mount Healthy Owls?” Lackey said. “But I want to keep this ride going.”
In order to keep things rolling in the playoffs, Mount Healthy will have to get past Winton Woods (9-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lockland Roettger Stadium.
“We’ve got to clean up what we’re doing, fumbling the ball can’t happen in the playoffs,” said coach Crouch. “Somebody steps up on this team every week and somebody will next week.”
Withrow will look to the 2014 season after a successful 2013 campaign and try to build on its strong 8-2 regular season, but the Tigers have a lot of talent in this year’s senior class to replace.