TRUMBULL ATHLETIC CONFERENCE Zuppo's rushing, 2 TDs lead Girard to victory
Girard scored twice in the second half to remain unbeaten in league play.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
GIRARD -- Matt Zuppo is Girard's quarterback, but he played like a tailback in the second half Friday to lead the Indians football team to a 13-0 win over Newton Falls High.
Zuppo rushed for 103 yards and scored two touchdowns on runs of 26 and 3 yards in the final two quarters to lead Girard (5-1, 3-0) to an important Trumbull Athletic Conference victory.
The junior also connected on 11 of 20 passes for 123 yards as he compiled 223 total yards to lead the Indians.
"When you have a quarterback that can run like [Zuppo] it opens things up a lot," Newton Falls coach Mark Bjelac said. "Zuppo's running the ball was the difference."
The Indians, who are the No. 5 team in this week's Division IV Region 12 computer playoff ratings, usually run a wide-open spread offense. When that didn't work in the first half because of the weather conditions and Newton Falls' defensive schemes, Girard coach Bud McSuley made the decision to run the ball at halftime.
"We had a tough start," McSuley said. "We had to adjust to the weather and some of the things [Newton Falls] did and it worked out.
"We decided to go right at them a little bit and see what happened."
The result was that Girard controlled the ball for all but three plays in the third quarter and scored on a six-play, 65-yard drive for its first score.
The Indians' next possession lasted 15 plays and covered 78 yards before Zuppo scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Girard a 13-0 lead.
Girard also got great productivity from senior tailback Mark Grdinich, who gained 95 yards 17 carries.
But an even bigger story might be the play of the Girard defense, which pitched a convincing shutout at a good Newton Falls (4-2, 1-2) team that is the No. 9 team in Div. V Region 17.
"Our defense was outstanding," McSuley said. "We came up with the plays when we needed to make the plays."
Girard limited the Tigers to 57 total yards and two first downs. The Indians' secondary picked off three passes to thwart any Newton Falls threat.
"That's the best defense we've faced," Bjelac said. "I'd rank them number one.
"But there were two great defenses playing out there," Bjelac said. "I thought we did a great job, especially in the first half, but I think that their senior-led team wore our young pups down."
Overall, the Indians rolled to 203 yards on the ground and 326 total yards. Girard dominated with 17 first downs.