West Mifflin defense steps up in victory over Ringgold

| Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, 10:57 p.m.

A shootout was expected, but this was borderline ridiculous.

West Mifflin and Ringgold were averaging more than 40 points coming into Friday's Big 9 Conference showdown at Titan Stadium, and you could see why during the first 24 minutes — seven touchdowns on the first seven possessions and a combined 536 yards of total offense.

So, of course, it was the defense that ended up being the difference.

West Mifflin held Ringgold out of the end zone the entire second half and limited the Rams' Nico Law-powered offense to 124 yards over the final two quarters to remain unbeaten with a 42-28 victory.

“That was a very good football team we beat out there,” West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said. “They are very talented and have a lot of weapons.”

But the Rams don't have Jimmy Wheeler.

Wheeler rushed 46 times for 365 yards and all six of West Mifflin's touchdowns. Wheeler has 1,311 rushing yards for an average of 262 yards per game.

“I was just trying to get in the end zone every time,” Wheeler said. “They were scoring, so we just had to keep scoring, too.”

West Mifflin posted 505 total yards of offense.

“We felt that we could move the ball,” Braszo said. “The thing is that we weren't sure if we could stop them.”

That's why Braszo switched from a four-down linemen defense to a 3-5-3.

It didn't work.

Ringgold scored on its first four possessions, and Law rushed for all of his 114 yards in the first half.

Braszo switched back to four down linemen in the second half, and that did the trick.

“Honestly, he didn't seem like he tried to get out of the pocket much in the second half,” Braszo said. “Our defense did a good job, and that's the reason why we won the game.”

Early on, it looked like whoever had the ball last was going to win.

After trading touchdowns for the first 1 12 quarters, West Mifflin got the first break of the game. Law fumbled one play after Wheeler made it 28-21 with his fourth touchdown.

It took the Titans four plays to make it a double-digit lead. Wheeler turned a third-and-short into a 23-yard touchdown run and a 35-21 lead with less than a minute left in the half.

Ringgold answered. After Brandon Thomas returned the ensuing kickoff to the 23-yard line, Law moved the Rams within a touchdown at halftime when he scored from 3 yards with less than 10 seconds left in the half.

“I think both teams just got tired out from scoring in the first half,” Braszo said.

After a scoreless third quarter, West Mifflin put the game away in the fourth with a five-play, 47-yard drive that culminated with Wheeler's 5-yard touchdown run.

“The defense did it in the second half,” Wheeler said. “The coaches told them what to do, and they executed.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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