OXFORD—As one would expect given the uncertainties surrounding the start of this high school football season, Friday night’s game with West Chester East against Oxford got off to a slow start. But eventually, the defending Ches-Mont American champion Vikings started finding their groove, and keyed by three rushing touchdowns from Mitch Ragni, cruised to a 34-6 victory over the host Hornets.
“The guys settled in really nicely after finally getting to get on the field and play a game,” said Vikings head coach Scott Stephen. “We were able to do some good things, both offensively and defensively. But the most important thing was that these kids, on both teams, got to come out and play some football.”
The Hornets came out stinging, utilizing a nice mix of pass and run to mount a drive down to the Vikings’ 26. But then the Vikings stiffened, and snuffed out the drive with a stop on fourth and five.
“That was a big stop for us,” said Stephen. “We gave up some big plays right in a row, but then buckled down and got that stop.”
The Hornets followed with some stellar defense of its own on the ensuing drive. The Vikings had first and goal from the five, but came up short on fourth and one.
“We played pretty good defense in the first half,” said Oxford coach Mike Means. “But we could never get a drive going to give the defense some rest. East has a very good team. We had our chances—three or four times deep in their territory—but we just couldn’t finish. That was the difference—when they had their chances, they put the dagger in, and then stopped us”
Still scoreless going into the second period, East finally broke through. Behind a very young offensive line, the Vikings were able to start running the ball effectively, chewing up yards and clock, and finally getting on the board when quarterback Ryan Duell (8 for 18, TD) connected with Scott Cummings for a one-yard touchdown.
“I’m amazed with the job the line did,” said Stephen. “We graduated four of the five from our line from last year. But there are a bunch of guys on this team that have just been waiting their turn and came up big tonight.”
Ragni was one of those guys. Kyle Cichanowski was arguably the top back in the league a year ago, but give his shot, Ragni came through. With barely 20 yards at the end of the first quarter, Ragni finished with 174 yards on 20 carries, including three times when he found the end zone.
“Yeah, it was a little sketchy in the beginning, just getting used to hitting again,” said Ragni. But once we got going, the line was incredible, blasting holes that I just had to hit. They longer we got into the game, the more hype we got. Just great to finally be playing and always fun to win. I thought we played a great game on both sides of the ball.”