SALINEVILLE -The day the Southern football team had been waiting for all summer finally arrived.
The Indians charged onto their brand-new artificial surface Saturday night against Waterloo and turned in a 19-7 victory in the season opener at Southern Local High School.
The Indians trailed 7-6 early before rallying later on to pick up the win.
"The hype was crazy and the atmosphere tonight was great," senior running back Mike McKenzie said. "Once the lights came on in the second half, everything started clicking for us."
After a slow start, McKenzie came on strong in the second half, finishing with 167 yards on 28 carries to go along with three touchdowns. The effort was extra sweet because Mckenzie wasn't sure he would be able to play this season after injuring his Achillies tendon during a track meet last April. The senior was limping noticably after the game, but his wide smile told the whole story.
"I ruptured my achillies and they told me that I might now play this year, that it ususally takes 10 months to recover," McKenzie said. "I worked hard and was able to heal enough to play. I can't explain having a game like this, I wasn't sure how it would go, but my line helped me out all night."
With the Indians down 7-6 at halftime and sputtering offensively, coach Mike Skrinjar upped McKenzie's workload in the second half and the effort paid off.
After getting the ball first, the Indians moved 56 yards on just four plays to score the go-ahead touchdown. McKenzie got the ball all four times, the last attempt a 34-yard score to make it 13-7.
"The yards came a lot easier for us in the second half," said senior offensive lineman J.T. Bickley. "We came out really fired up and it took some time to get settled down, but we took off after that."
After a Waterloo three-and-out, the Indians took over and continued pounding away with McKenzie, chewing up the rest of the third quarter.
Waterloo had its best chance to retake the lead early in the fourth quarter, but senior defensive back M.J. Williams stripped Viking quarterback Henry Bolanz at midfield and recovered the fumble. Bolanz finished with 183 yards rushing on 25 carries but lost two fumbles and was mostly corralled in the second half.
"We had trouble containing him (Bolanz) in the first half," Southern coach Mike Skrinjar said. "They ran a nice read-option and it took our defensive line a little while to adjust. We keyed on him much better in the second half."
After taking over, the Indians went back to McKenzie, who scored his third touchdown from 16 yards out to make it 19-7 with seven minutes left. The Vikings did not cross midfield the rest of the night.
"It gives me goosebumps to think about Mike's perseverance and mental toughness," Skrinjar said. "He wanted to be a part of this team. He came to me last night and said he wanted to play every down."
The Indians put a jolt in the fired up crowd right away, when Tim Parrish recovered the opening kickoff at the Waterloo 22 yard line after a Viking muff. McKenzie scored from a yard out four plays later.
The Vikings got their only score on the next drive on an 18-yard run by Bolanz.
The Indians (1-0) play at Wellsville next week.
"The hype was great tonight, we waited so long for this game and it finally came," Skrinjar said. "I'm thrilled we were able to live up to it, but there is stiull a ways to go, Now wehave to get better."
Before the game Ben Kellog and Larry Hayhurst from Skydive Rick's treated the fans to an arial show. Both landed at midfield with Kellog carrying the game ball and Hayhurst an American flag.
The new surface got good reviews all around.
"This is a great facility, I was really impressed," said Vikings coach Nathan Peters The surface was nice and soft I think my players enjoyed playing on it."
"It was nice and flat which was great on my Achillies," Mckenzie said. "The field was awsome."
In his first start since taking over for Luke Griffith at quarterback, Jared Shiolt completed five of 11 attempts for 29 yards while also rushing for 58 yards on 15 carries.
S -MIke McKenzie 1 yard run (kick failed)
W-Henry Bolanz 18 yard run (Daniel Buckley kick)
S-Mike McKenzie 34 yard run (Jesse McClurg kick)
S-Mike McKenzie 17 yard run (kick failed)
First downs 1210
Total Yards 288261
RUSHING-Waterloo, Henry Bolanz 25-183, Josh Horning 8-23 ; Southern, Mike McKenzie 28-167, Jared Shilot 15-58.
PASSING-Waterloo, Bolanz 5-18-0; Southern, Shilot 5-11-0
RECEIVING-Waterloo Dale Miller 1-17, Wlliam Bolanz 1-9; Southern, Jesse McClurg 2-16, Tim Parrish 1-16.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-Southern, M.J Williams, Jacob Pelley.