It was like a contagious disease Friday night in northern Fulton County.
One Evergreen Viking error led to another, and another, and like the plague, another.
A false start that hindered a drive.
A dropped pass that turned into a dozen.
And ultimately a skied Liberty Center punt that bounced off a Viking player, giving the Tigers a short field score that multiplied by three with two Viking turnovers on two of those muffed passes, breaking open a close game and led to a 43-19 Tiger win that handed Evergreen their first loss of the season.
The Vikings jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their second possession when Nick Etue found Dylan Komisarek on a short pass that the senior wideout turned into a 98 yard sprint to the end zone.
However, LC came back with a time consuming drive the was capped off by Zack Carpenter’s one yard dive that tied the score with 2:42 left in the first.
The Vikings drove right back as Etue hit Josh Laux for 17 and Jon Milliken for 32 yards to go deep into Tiger territory.
But, a false start and a pair of drops killed the drive and the Tigers capitalized on the first play of the second quarter when Dylan Sexton broke through the line and rumbled 41 yards, giving the Tigers a 14-7 lead.
That seven point lead doubled on a 13 play drive that was aided by a defensive holding penalty that Carpenter finished with a 9-yard run to make it 21-7 with 4:28 left in the half.
It took the Vikings just 41 seconds to answer as Tyler Noe returned the kickoff into LC territory and on the second play, Peyton Pawlaczyk hauled in a pass on the sideline and raced 48 yards down the sideline to chop the LC lead to 21-13.
The Vikings seemed to seize momentum all the way, forcing a Tiger punt after three plays with plenty of time left in the first half to cut into the lead or tie heading into halftime.
Sexton’s punt went almost straight up, however, when it came back to earth, it bounced and hit an Evergreen lineman going downfield and the Tigers recovered at the Viking 33.
On the second play, Brooks Hinton found Carpenter deep over the middle for a touchdown to make it a 28-13 game at the half.
“Our kid was doing a great job hustling downfield to block his man,” said Viking coach Paul Amstutz. “There are things you can’t control in this great game and that’s one of them.”
Evergreen stopped the Tigers on their first drive of the second half and had a chance to score as Etue hit Chandler Lumbrezer and Levi Carson with first down passes, getting to the LC 28.
However, his next throw bounced off a Viking receiver and was picked off by Jarrett Krugh.
On the second play, Sexton broke loose for a 63 yard score with 5:53 left in the third.
Then, on the second play after the kickoff, Etue’s pass was again tipped by a Viking receiver and into the hands of the Tigers’ Shawn Judge, who returned to the 10 where Logan McCullough scored from the one to make it 40-13 with 4:09 left in the third that in essence sealed the game.
Despite the Vikings subpar performance catching the ball, Amstutz stood by his corp of receivers.
“When it comes to big games we have to control things we have the power to control,” said Amstutz.”It was an off night for our receivers, who have been very good this season when it comes to catching the ball. But in order to win the big games you cannot have an off night.”
Sexton led LC rushers with 182 of the Tigers 315 yards on the ground.
The Tigers (3-2, 2-0 NWOAL) had 433 total yards.
Etue was 23 for 49 in the air, 12 of which were drops, for 377 of the Vikings 392 total yards.
The Vikings now travel to Swanton to face the undefeated, state-ranked Bulldogs Friday night.
Joe Blystone can be reached at [email protected]