By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
MANDATA -- The next time Line Mountain has a homecoming and a field dedication planned, it is a good bet Owen Daniel will not be invited.
After making one big play after another against the Eagles the past two seasons only to lose, the hard work finally paid off for the Williams Valley senior, this time in a new position.
Daniel, a 6-foot-1, 177-pound receiver (and former tailback), did all he could to take away from the Eagles' homecoming and their dedication of the field at Eagle Stadium for former NFL player and alum Glenn Ressler.
Daniel scored three touchdowns, including an 80-yard kickoff return that tied the game in the first quarter to lead the Vikings to a thrilling 35-28 Tri-Valley League victory Saturday night.
"The last two years, we got completely smoked by them," Daniel said. "It feels great just to beat them, plus (winning on) their home field, and it feels good to win on homecoming night."
Williams Valley coach Tim Savage said, "We're very balanced and if you want to pack the box and take away our run game, Owen's out there in single coverage and he'll beat anybody in our league."
Line Mountain coach Rodney Knock said, of Daniel, "Several times we were in position to make a play and we didn't make the play, and he did. That's what great athletes do, they make plays."
The game lived up to its billing and then some as, except for a 35-21 Vikings lead early in the fourth quarter, it was never more than a one-touchdown game.
"A couple miscues hurt us and that was the difference, and a miscue on that kick return," Knock said. "But I couldn't ask for any more from the kids."
The Eagles lost starting quarterback Cole Rickert to an ankle injury (he was also injured last week and was hobbling to open the game) on the first series, putting the signal calling in the hands of wide receiver Codi Morris.
After a shaky start, the senior sparked the home team with a pair of touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Jeremy Renn of 60 and 56 yards to keep the Eagles within striking distance.
Knock said, "Codi did a great job coming in there. We tell the kids it doesn't matter who is in the game, you've gotta step it up, and Codi is a kid that can handle a situation like that and, as you could see, he played well."
Savage added, "(Morris) is a hell of a football player, too; he did a good job throwing the ball. He may throw the ball better than Rickert. Rickert's more of a runner. He is their starter, but (Morris) is pretty good, too.
It was a game of big play after big play by both teams, and the Eagles had a chance after the second Renn TD and a big defensive play by senior tackle Nick Strohecker. The latter tackled running back Cole Barnhardt, stripped the ball and pounced on it at the Eagles' 45-yard line.
Two plays later, Morris hit Renn on a post for the TD that, with Austin Snyder's PAT, made it 35-28 with 7:19 to go.
The Eagles (3-1, 2-1 TVL) almost had the chance to go right back on offense when the Vikings fumbled on the ensuing kick return, but the Vikings recovered.
Still, the Eagles just needed one more defensive stop to give themselves a shot at a tie or the lead. Every time they appeared to have one, something bad happened to the home team.
On a fourth-and-six, the Eagles nearly blocked a punt but got flagged for roughing the kicker, giving the Vikings (4-0, 3-0) an automatic first down.
Later in the series, it was third and 23, but Barnhardt got 14 of it back on a delay up the middle, then, on fourth-and-9, the Eagles were called for pass interference against Daniel, giving the Vikings a first down at the 10 and the Vikings ran out the clock.
"We had our chances. We put ourselves in a position to win. That's all we can ask our kids to do," Knock said.
Among the other Eagles who had big nights were fullback Corey Warford, who returned an interception 31 yards for the first TD of the game with 8:43 left in the first quarter, and rushed for 100 yards on 13 carries, including a 32-yard score; and linebacker Kenny Rothermel, who reached double figures in tackles.