Carter Johnson & Tucker Hadden

(Murray) -- A stellar ground game guided Stanton-Essex to a 61-22 victory over Murray in a Class 8-Man First Round contest for the Vikings' first postseason victory since October 26th, 2011. 

"You just don't know how things are going to go when you get into the playoffs," Coach Jeff Grebin said. "Our kids just keep rallying and rallying each week. Very proud of the kids' efforts."  

The Vikings started on a fast note, finding the end zone on the game's third play when Carter Johnson scooped up a Murray fumble and pranced 15 yards for a touchdown just 70 seconds in. 

"The ball goes on the ground, bounces right to my hands and I took it for a score, it was huge," Johnson said of his opening touchdown. 

"That was huge," Grebin said. "Had they marched down the field and stuck it in the end zone, that would have been a different game." 

Stanton-Essex followed Johnson's scoop-and-score with a 65-yard touchdown run from Logan Roberts to take a 14-0 lead only 3:57 into the game. 

Murray responded by returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but Stanton-Essex added another touchdown -- this time on a blocked punt by Jack Roberts to take a 20-6 lead into the half. 

The Vikings scored first in the second half to extend their lead to 26-6, but Murray once again had an answer, this time bringing the deficit to 26-14. However, Stanton effectively sealed the victory with 35 of the final 43 points to claim the 61-22 victory. 

It was a well-rounded effort for Coach Grebin's squad, which posted 369 yards, forced five turnovers and shined on special teams. 

The run game was dominant for Stanton-Essex Friday night, churning for 290 yards and six scores on 25 carries. 

Tucker Hadden was the workhorse in the Vikings' dynamic running game, posting 148 yards and three scores on 15 carries. Hadden posted more yards Friday night that he had all season. 

"The line just did a really good job of opening up holes," Hadden said. 

Hadden also posted 12.5 tackles on defense. 

"His time came," Grebin said of Hadden. "The kid has been working hard. He's an overachiever. He's playing at another level and he's raising the whole team." 

Johnson had a strong presence in the Vikings' dominance. The junior quarterback threw for a touchdown, rushed for two more, recovered two fumbles -- including the aforementioned touchdown and also snagged an interception. 

"Carter is off and on," Grebin said. "But when he's on, he's tough to stop."  

Defensively, Stanton-Essex's defense contained dynamic quarterback Zack Belden to only 87 rushing yards on 28 carries and only surrendered 45 total yards in the first half.

"Our guys stayed home and worked together as a team," Grebin said of his team's defense. 

The loss ends Murray's season at 4-4. 

"They are a good ball team," Grebin said of Murray.

The victory moves Stanton-Essex to 4-3 on the year and gives the Vikings' their first postseason win since they defeated Ar-We-Va in 2011. 

The Vikings will now turn their attention to CAM (7-0), who they faced last week and lost to 34-20 despite a valiant effort.

"We just to fix some mistakes and we'll be good," Johnson said.

"We did well on defense," Hadden echoed, "The offense just has to carry it over." 

"The kids are excited right now," Grebin said. "Last week was last week. There was a lot of intensity. We hope we have that. CAM is a very well-coached team." 

Complete interviews with Johnson, Hadden and Coach Grebin can be viewed below. 

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