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Ringgold, West Mifflin matchup brings together top offenses

| Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
West Mifflin running back James Wheeler runs down the sideline ahead of Belle Vernon's Cameron Quinto for a third-quarter touchdown on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at West Mifflin.
West Mifflin running back Jimmy Wheeler (26) avoids a Knoch defender while returning the opening kickoff for 68 yards on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, at West Mifflin Titan Stadium. Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Tribune-Review

One of the more attractive games on tap for Friday night will take place in West Mifflin where the Titans will host Ringgold in a battle of explosive Big Nine Conference teams.

The Titans (4-0, 4-0) and Rams (3-1, 3-1) have combined to score 360 points on the season and are far and away the two most explosive teams in the conference.

Ringgold is led by multi-talented quarterback Nico Law (38-76, 681 yards, 9 TDs and 49 carries, 469 yards, 9.6 ave., 3 TDs) while West Mifflin has one of the more dangerous runners in the WPIAL in James Wheeler (79 carries, 946 yards, 12.0 ave., 11 TDs).

Wheeler (5-9, 165) is second in the WPIAL in rushing and while he is on every opposing coach's game plan, he is not yet close to picking a college for his future.

“He hasn't really received any solid offers yet,” West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said. “He's gotten a lot of calls and a lot of schools have stopped in though.”

Ringgold coach Matt Humbert knows all about Wheeler's abilities.

“He's a kid who can hurt you inside and outside,” Humbert said. “He's got great lateral speed and quickness. With him, the key is we have to wrap and tackle because if we don't he will just run all night.

“We know he is going to get some yards. We just have to limit the big, explosive plays he is capable of.”

Braszo said he is not surprised by the quick start of the Rams, who have won their last three games.

“We knew they had some good kids coming back and they've been doing pretty well the last few years,” Braszo said. “Their program has been on the rise and we know they are a team we have to beat if we expect to get to the playoffs.”

Humbert says the game Friday is big on many fronts. He understands that not many people still consider Ringgold a serious contender.

“Part of me realizes that we are a contender and part of me realizes that we need to prove ourselves,” Humbert said. “We don't really care what other people think about us. I think we need to prove more to ourselves by winning a game like this. I know what we are capable of. The kids know what we are capable of. We just have to go out and do it.”

Braszo said he is concerned with the overall team speed of Ringgold and said primarily his team will be concentrating on trying to slow down Law.

“Their quarterback is an explosive kid who makes them go,” Braszo said. “He has the ball in his hands every play and is always a threat. We will have to zero in on him in order to slow down that offense.”

Humbert said that while Law, who has amassed over 1,100 yards rushing and passing, is doing well, he expects even more from his junior quarterback.

“He has done some good things, but he has to continue to push himself to do better,” Humbert said of Law. “He could be very good, or he can be great. I feel the same way about our offense. We have to continue to strive to get better as a unit.”

West Mifflin has only given up 18 points this season, including last week's 56-12 drubbing of Albert Gallatin.

“We are going to have to play a better game defensively than we did last week,” Braszo said. “Ringgold really has explosive speed at quarterback and wide receiver. We have to be ready for what they do.”

“West Mifflin is a great team. They won 11 games last year,” Humbert said. “We are going to have to limit Wheeler and play a very basic, fundamental game. We don't need to be perfect. We just need to do all the little things and do them well.”

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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