Home Local Sports Mikey Downes scores three times, defense comes up big in St. Elizabeth...

Mikey Downes scores three times, defense comes up big in St. Elizabeth football tournament win: Photo gallery

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Mikey Downs breaks away from an Indian River defender on his 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He scored three times. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — With their main offensive weapon hobbled with an ankle injury, the St. Elizabeth football team needed someone to step up in the team’s DIAA Class 1A quarterfinal matchup Nov. 18 at Abessinio Stadium. They found that person in Mikey Downes.

Downes ran for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns as the Vikings, seeded second in the Class 1A tournament, held off the No. 7 Indians, 32-21. They will host the winner of No. 6 Seaford at No. 3 Wilmington Charter. The Blue Jays and Force will play Nov. 19 at noon.

The Vikings forced the Indians to punt on their opening possession, with St. Elizabeth getting the ball at their own 21. Downes showed right away that he would be a force to reckon with in the absence of standout Quasim Benson. On the team’s first play from scrimmage, Downes flew up the middle for 79 yards and a touchdown, but the extra point was no good.

Indian River showed its own big-play capability as an answer to that touchdown. The Vikings held Indians running back Hayden Hall to a yard on first down, but the bruising senior took a pitch to the right side and rambled 64 yards on the next play for a score. With 7:08 remaining in the first, the Indians took a 7-6 lead.

The next drive took seven minutes, but that was okay with the Vikings, as they drove 72 yards on 14 plays to retake the lead. Gavin Andrews and Downes ran three times for 10 yards to open the drive, giving St. Elizabeth a first and 10 at their own 38. A 21-yard run by Chris Caracter on second down and 15 put the Vikings at the Indians’ 46, and a personal foul added another 15 yards.

They kept the ball on the ground on every play except one during the drive, eventually earning a first and goal from the IR 8. Downes scored his second touchdown on fourth down, plunging in from the 2 with eight seconds left in the quarter. Another missed extra point kept the lead at 12-7.

The Indians began the second quarter with good field position at midfield. On the first play, however, a pitchout missed the running back, and St. Elizabeth’s Steph Goodman was able to go 40 yards on a scoop and score, increasing the lead to 18-7.

The St. Elizabeth defense was just starting to make its presence known. On the next IR drive, the Indians spent more than four minutes steadily advancing the ball. Primarily behind the running of Hall and Jayvion Chandler, they were down to the Vikings’ 15 before a penalty pushed them back to the 20. They faced a fourth and 13, and the Vikings believed they had held on an incomplete pass. A personal foul, however, gave the Indians another chance, this time a fourth down and four at the St. Elizabeth 8. They tried a halfback pass, but it fell incomplete.

The Indians used the good field position to their advantage the next time they had the ball. Chandler ran for 13 yards on two rushes, then quarterback Dylan Grise, a freshman, his Bryce Johnson over the middle for a touchdown with just 1:26 left in the half. It was 18-15 after the two-point conversion.

Chris Caracter returned the kickoff to the IR 46, and the Vikings marched downfield. They called on Benson, who injured an ankle last week at Caravel, and he picked up 14 yards on two carries. Quarterback Cole Soto then threw to Caracter, who caught the pass at the 4 while falling backward. With 27 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, Soto took the ball to the one, then spiked the ball to stop the clock. Soto kept the ball on third down, finding a lane for a touchdown. Soto hit Montevious Polack for the two-point conversion, the only one the team made all night. With four seconds left in the half, the lead was 26-15.

Neither team could score in the third quarter, but Indian River entered the fourth with a first and goal. Chandler ran it in on the first play of the quarter, cutting the Vikings’ lead to 26-21.

The Indians’ defense forced a punt, and the offense went back to work starting at the Vikings’ 28. Two penalties hurt the Indians, and by the time they got to fourth down, they needed 12 yards for the first down, but a pass toward the end zone fell incomplete.

Downes struck once again on first down, emerging from a scrum at the line of scrimmage to go 69 yards for his third score, giving the Vikings’ a bit of breathing room with 7:13 to go. Their defense then took over.

IR had a third and 2 at the St. Elizabeth 30, but the defense stuffed a run before shutting down a fourth-down opportunity. After the Vikings were forced to punt, Indian River again turned the ball over on downs. The Vikings then ran out the clock and could look forward to another week of football.

Downes finished unofficially with 211 yards. The Vikings improved to 10-1. Their semifinal game will take place at Abessinio Stadium on either Nov. 25 or 26. The date and time will be determined after tomorrow’s games.

Indian River finished with a record of 5-6.

All photos by Mike Lang.