By ERIC FORTUNE
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
It seemed that this contest was destined to a finish where whoever had the ball last was going to in essence, win the game.
Two punts between both teams, 390 yards rushing between both teams and a 21-18 advantage by the Mathews Mustangs screamed a nailbiter in the cards after one half of play.
That is where adjustments come into play and instead of a repeat of the first half, it instead became an onslaught on Pymatuning Laker big plays from Quintin Ratliff, Nick Such and Nick Holt to form a three-headed monster attack that finished with 417 yards rushing as the Lakers rolled to a 52-27 win in Northeastern Athletic Conference play.
“Halftime, we stayed with our base defense because we knew we weregoing to score,” Pymatuning Valley coach Neal Croston said. “We just had to stay home more on defense and keep attacking. Our guys did that the second half.”
It worked wonders as the Mustangs started the second half with a three-and-out and a turnover on downs while the Lakers Ratliff scorched them for a 29-yard run and 79-yard run to extend the Lakers’ advantage to 34-21.
After a 12-play, 68-yard drive where Bryan Leipply’s 2-yard run made it a one-possession game at 34-27, again the Lakers had the answers with 8:08 left in the game behind a steady dose of Ratliff, Such and Holt to extend the lead back out to 13 with 5:28 to go.
“We had a nice mixture of Holt, Ratliff and Such,” Croston said. “The line was doing a good job of blowing up the inside. We were then able to get the sweeps.
“Quintin’s Quintin. He’s going to make plays, but when they start keying on him, we have guys that have been stepping up. It was nice to see other guys make plays for us.”
Ratliff had a monster night carrying the football, needing only 15 carries to pile up 234 yards, a staggering average of 15.6 yards per carry. Such also topped the century mark, posting 105 yards on but 10 carries and Holt contributed 78 yards on 10 carries.
The Lakers ran for 417 yards on 35 attempts, an outstanding average of 11.9 per carry. Throw in quarterback Travis Kiser’s passing night (5-7, 121 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) and the Lakers totaled 538 yards on their 62 plays, an average of 8.7 per play.
A 36-yard interception return by Collin Winkler when he stepped in front of Leipply’s pass with a little more than four minutes put the exclamation on a nearly flawless second half by the Lakers.
“We thought we did,” Croston said. “It was just a matter of coming on the field and making plays. We weren’t worried about the records. We were worried about the game.”
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.