Jayse Miller tried to fight back tears on Friday when asked about earning the opportunity to put his black uniform on one more time.
“I love my teammates and I love my town,” the Amanda-Clearcreek senior said. “Getting to play in The Pit one more time and put that black uniform on, I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
The Aces clinched their first home playoff game and share of the Mid-State League Buckeye Division championship since 2011 on Friday with a 28-6 win over host Logan Elm.
Bloom-Carroll’s 24-9 win over Teays Valley last night forced a three-way share of the title between the Bulldogs (8-2, 5-1), Vikings (7-3, 5-1) and Aces (8-2, 5-1).
“It’s crazy how the league has went the last two seasons with a shared title last year and a three-way split of the championship this season,” A-C coach Steve Daulton said. “It just goes to show you that every game matters in this league, especially with the way the kids and coaching staffs know each other.”
Despite owning a 224-29 advantage in total offense during the first half, the Aces only led 7-0 at halftime, with the lone score coming on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Madison to Miller in the first quarter.
“I was very proud of our overall effort of our team and especially our defense,” Logan Elm coach Terry Holbert said. “We gave up some yards, but we took away Amanda’s big plays for the most part and we came up with some big stops when we needed them.
“Our kids studied very hard this week, they were prepared and were very disciplined.”
Logan Elm (2-8, 1-5) made the game even more interesting by putting together an 11-play drive that stretched 65 yards on its second possession of the third quarter. Quarterback Conner Robinson rushed for 25 yards during the drive and completed 3 of 4 passes for 40 yards, including a six-yard touchdown strike to Jared Harrington on fourth-and-goal.
“Conner is our leader and he’s a very tough and resilient warrior for us,” Holbert said. “He never wavered and made some big plays, both running and throwing the football during that drive.”
The Braves tried to take the lead, but the two-point conversion run failed to leave the score at 7-6 Aces.
Amanda-Clearcreek went to its power run game on its next possession and answered with a nine-play drive that traveled 54 yards. Alex Fairchild had four carries for 27 yards on the drive that Miller finished with a three-yard run. The second of four extra points by Jonathan Weaver gave the Aces a 14-6 lead with 1:27 left in the third quarter.
“Our jumbo set has worked for us all year,” Miller said. “Whenever we get into that set, it’s a confidence boost for us and we always seem to put together drives and score.”
The Aces forced a three-and-out and then drove 66 yards down field, capped by a 12-yard run around left end by Miller to take a 21-6 lead with 7:18 remaining.
Miller then put the finishing touch on the win when he intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
“I overran one or two passes I should have intercepted earlier, so I wasn’t going to miss that one,” Miller said.
Amanda-Clearcreek outgained Logan Elm 396-145 and held the Braves to just 19 yards rushing on 24 carries.
“I know people think it’s a cliché, but when you play a rivalry game you can throw the records out a lot of the time,” Daulton said. “Logan Elm’s kids and coaching staff did a great job, they had a good game plan and they played with great effort.
“Our defense rose up and made the difference. When you are playing against talented kids like Evan Valentine, who is a man among boys on the offensive line, and Conner Robinson, who’s a tough kid and a good athlete at quarterback, they are going to make some plays. I felt our kids did a nice job of getting to the football, hitting hard and making plays.”
Robinson completed 14 of 27 passes for the Braves for 126 yards and a touchdown. Harrington had four receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown, and Donte Dryden added five grabs for 39 yards.
The Aces finished with 305 yards rushing on 51 carries for a six-yard average. Madison covered 99 yards on 24 carries, Miller had eight totes for 76 yards and two touchdowns, Fairchild gained 68 yards on 10 carries and Jesse Connell added 62 yards on nine totes.
“Our offensive line has played amazing all season and when they create holes for us, Peyton, Jesse, Alex and I can take advantage of that and make plays,” Miller said.
The Aces are projected to host Columbus Academy (7-3) next week, according to Joe Eitel, in a Division V, Region 19 quarterfinal. After losing 41-23 to Ridgewood last season in a regional quarterfinal, Miller discussed the goals that this year’s senior class set.
“We exited the season earlier than we wanted to last year, so we set our goals after that game,” he said. “We wanted to play hard, win all the games we should win and defend The Pit. We knew if we did that then the rest would take care of itself. Now we get another opportunity to defend The Pit and play in front of our town, it’s awesome.”