Indiana upsets Ringgold
Even with a 4-5 record, Indiana felt it deserved to be seeded No. 9 when the WPIAL Class AAA brackets were released.
And with good reason.
The Indians marched into Joe Montana Stadium and handed No. 8 Ringgold a 28-14 defeat in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.
When Nico Law took off on an 81-yard touchdown run and it looked like the Rams (7-3) were going to be up to their old tricks and score more than 40 points in their fifth straight game.
But Indiana showed no intimidation, answering quickly, and gaining the confidence it needed.
“The kids kept stepping up all night,” Indiana coach Mark Zilinskas said. “We knew we had to keep Law on the sidelines. If we did that, we know what our kids our capable of.”
After Law's long run gave Ringgold a 7-0 lead with 3:50 left in the first, the Indians (5-5) answered 2:40 seconds later when DeQuan West scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. The extra point tied it 7-7, where it remained going into halftime.
“We knew after he broke that run that we needed to just settle down and go back to the chopping block,” Zilinskas said.
And they did, using a steady, ball-control offense to chew up large chunks of the clock.
Law finished 12 of 23 for 167 yards passing and 116 yards on 15 carries, but 81 came on his scoring run. He was a non-factor most of the game.
“It's tough when you have a team whose objective is to prevent our offense from getting on the football field,” Rams coach Matt Humbert said. “We battled, but when we needed to produce a big play here or there we weren't able to do it.”
Indiana quarterback Sean Thompson, who ran his offense like a seasoned professional, added the go-ahead touchdown with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter to give the Indians a 14-7 lead.
Thompson finished 15 of 23 for 164 yards through the air.
On the Rams' next possession, a Law fumble gave the Indians the ball at the Ram 38.
Three plays later, West, who finished with 153 yards on 15 carries, dove into the end zone from 3 yards out to put the Indians up 21-7 with 11:16 left.
“That seemed to be the pattern for us in our losses,” Humbert said. “We put ourselves in decent position, but ended up turning it over. It all came down to mistakes.”
The Rams got the ball back and scored in just over a minute on a Chacar Berry 2-yard run. The play was sent up by Alan Pritchett's 62-yard pass on a screen that put the ball on the Indians' four. Pritchett finished with seven catches for 152 yards.
Ringgold looked poised to finish its comeback, forcing an Indians' punt with just under three minutes remaining, but return man Brandon Thomas fumbled the return and it was picked up by Indiana's Ian Scott.
“We preached it all week, to keep hitting them,” Zilinskas said. “Overall, it was a great team effort and we were able to make the plays tonight.”
The Rams got the ball back but Law threw an interception that turned into a 19-yard touchdown return for the Indians' Jordan Casses to seal the win.
“We're still playing football; that's the biggest thing,” Zilinskas said. “Our best defense was keeping their offense on the sidelines. We controlled the clock and we played great defense, now we get the pleasure of playing West Allegheny next week.”
With the loss, Humbert still touted the success of his team.
“We were 7-3, and I'll take that,” Humbert said. “We battled all the way to the end and came up short. We still had what I'd consider a successful season. They fought like hell tonight, I'm proud of them.”
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-684-2667.