Ringgold: Running up Hill(ers)
A lot will be riding on Friday's Big Nine Conference finale when Trinity visits Ringgold at Joe Montana Stadium.
For the Rams (4-4, 4-3), they will be hoping to snap a two-game losing streak before the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs get underway next week. They also will hope to avoid dropping into fifth place in the conference standings and not drawing one of the top-ranked teams in the first round.
For the Hillers (4-4, 4-3), they will be trying to lock up a playoff berth (they will get the fourth spot in the conference with a win and could be out all together with a loss).
And, oh by the way, Belle Vernon Area will have a keen interest in who wins at Ringgold because if the Leps (3-5, 3-4) beat Albert Gallatin (0-8, 0-7) and Ringgold beats Trinity, then BVA will get the fifth spot in the conference and join the playoffs.
The Rams are a banged up team going into the game. Their top rusher, Demetrius Louis, has played sparingly the last three weeks as he has been troubled by hamstring and groin injuries. Louis was one of the top rushers in the WPIAL after five weeks with over 700 yards and averaging 14 yards per carry before being slowed.
“We're hoping that for the first time in four weeks, (Louis) will be pretty healthy and will have practiced a full week,” said Ringgold coach Matt Humbert. “The key thing is that you want to get those practice reps in. You lose out on those practice reps and things don't look so clearly to you on Friday night. Barring a setback, he will have finally gone through a full week of practice with the offense.”
Ringgold also has versatile quarterback Nico Law a little banged up. Law, who has nearly 1,000 yards combined passing and rushing, was injured late in last week's 14-7 loss to Highlands and did not return to practice until mid-week.
“Nico looks like he's OK,” Humbert said. “He got a little stinger last week and it looked worse than it was. He's going to play.”
It's tough to win when 1,700 yards of offense and 19 touchdowns are taken out of the attack. That would make it hard to snap a losing streak and nobody wants to go into the playoffs on a losing streak.
“Oh, God, that's exactly what we don't want to do,” Humbert said about losing going into the playoffs. “That's the demon we are dealing with this week. We need to string something together Friday night and come out of there with a win.
“What we really have been looking for is some consistency. But a win would really help, too.”
Humbert knows that Trinity won't be a pushover.
“That's a talented team, especially on offense,” he said of the Hillers. “They seem to have no trouble moving the football and when they have lost, they kind of shot themselves in the foot more than they got beat.
“They are a downhill running football team and (Patrick) Frey is a tough running back to stop.”
Frey leads Trinity with 640 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
“We're going to have to play some tough defense and get back to the things that were working well for us earlier in the season before we lost a few components,” Humbert said.
PREGAME NOTES: Trinity has neither won nor lost back-to-back games this season ... Dayshore Majors replaced law at quarterback last week and completed one of two passes for 21 yards and a TD ... Joey Wall is Ringgold's top receiver with 16 catches for 232 yards. He has scored seven TDs on the season ... Corey Hunsberger is the Hillers' top receiver with 13 receptions for 259 yards (19.9 ave.) He also has rushed for 141 yards and scored nine TDs.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.