West Mifflin offense to face toughest test in Ringgold

| Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 1:31 a.m.

Considering how potent the West Mifflin offense has been this season, it's somewhat difficult to imagine that there were some serious doubts about that unit prior to the start of the season.

No one was sure how good the offensive line would be. There were questions about the team's running game and its effectiveness with a relatively small and untested speedster moving into the starting slot.

It seems silly now.

West Mifflin (4-0, 4-0) the Trib Total Media Class AAA No. 8 team, is undefeated and sitting atop the Big 9 Conference thanks in large part to senior running back Jimmy Wheeler, the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA 100-meter finalist who has electrified the running game with 64 carries for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Titans also have the third-best offense in the WPIAL with 187 points, behind only Gateway (204) and Jeannette (203), and have even outscored Clairton (178) at this stage of the season.

Then again, the Titans haven't really been tested. West Mifflin's four wins are against teams that are a combined 2-14 and currently occupy the bottom four spots in the standings.

“A lot of our opponents have been struggling, so it's been easier with the schedule we've been through so far,” West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said. “We know that we're now going to face more of the teams that have been winning in our conference, and we know it's going to be a little rougher.”

Its first bumpy ride could come this week as West Mifflin readies itself for a visit to a No. 9 Ringgold (3-1, 3-1) squad that has won three consecutive games and has righted itself after a season-opening loss to Thomas Jefferson.

“We didn't help ourselves out at all against (Thomas Jefferson), and you have to cross all your Ts and dot your Is when you play such a high-caliber team,” Ringgold coach Matt Humbert said. “The kids have done a great job so far this week, and I know they're focused and they're ready to roll.”

Though both teams like to run the football — Ringgold will counter Wheeler with Demetrius Louis, who has 699 yards and 10 touchdowns — this game could come down to the play of the two dual-threat quarterbacks.

Rams sophomore Nico Law has come into his own as a first-year starter with nearly 500 yards of total offense. And he has the skill set that could come in handy against a tough Titans defensive front.

“He's the type of kid that, with experience, he's just going to get better because he has a knack for the position,” Humbert said. “He can throw and run, and it's a matter of him learning the little things that come in the game that we don't present in practice that come in the flow of the game, but he's done a heck of a job so far.”

On the other side is the veteran presence of Derrick Fulmore. The West Mifflin senior is coming off, statistically, his best game of the season. Against Albert Gallatin, he was a perfect 5 of 5 for 193 yards and three touchdowns, including a 70-yard strike to Diallo Mitchell.

“We've been working on that in practice and the last few weeks, we've been throwing the ball a little bit, probably a little bit more than we have, and we've been working on our passing game,” Braszo said. “We know that, if people stack up on us, we can throw and it's something we always work on.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kbarnes@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161, Ext. 1977.

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