The Rams took advantage of the Bears turnovers for a 21-0 victory.
LEETONIA -- When Mineral Ridge High football coach Shawn Brown took over the head coaching job just one month before the start of the 2003 season, he wasn't sure what to expect.
Things got off to a rocky start, as the Rams squandered a 21-8 halftime lead on their way to a 28-21 loss to Leetonia in the first game of Brown's tenure.
Brown remembered that game well and so did the 15 seniors on this year's team. Their coach reminded them again during halftime of Friday night's season opener against the Bears. Leading 21-0 at the half, Brown made sure this one didn't get away.
"I brought that up at halftime and told the kids they still had 24 minutes of football left," said Brown. "We reminded them that we were leading in that game, but ended up losing. I'm happy with how we played tough the whole game tonight and never let up."
The Rams converted three first-half fumbles by Leetonia into 21 points to gain the momentum and a 21-0 advantage at the half.
But unlike the 2003 contest, Ridge made that lead stand. The defense stymied the Bears' Wing-T offense and limited Leetonia to just two first downs in the second half en route to a 21-0 shutout victory.
"Our defense really stuck in there the whole game and didn't give Leetonia any big plays," said Brown. "We lost some guys from last year, so we're just looking for 11 guys to play hard on every play. I think we stepped it up tonight."
While the defense did its part, the Mineral Ridge offense used a balanced attack to cash in on the three Leetonia fumbles in the opening half.
Hall leads way
Running back Micah Hall led the charge with 115 yards rushing on 25 carries. The senior scored two of the Rams' touchdowns.
Ridge took a quick 7-0 lead on its second possession of the game. Hall capped a nine-play, 51-yard scoring drive with a 10-yard TD run on fourth-and 1.
The drive appeared to stall at the Leetonia 15 on fourth-and 6, but the Bears jumped offside to give the Rams another opportunity.
The Bears put the ball on the ground again on their next possession, as senior Jeff Coleman recovered a fumble for Mineral Ridge at the 47-yard line.
Quarterback Vance Keirsey went to the air, leading an efficient three-play scoring drive. The senior connected on two-of-two passes for 39 yards in the series.
Keirsey tosses TD pass
After Leetonia was flagged for roughing the passer, Keirsey found Wade Campbell on the next play for a 34-yard touchdown. The point-after kick put Ridge ahead 14-0.
On the first play of the second quarter, Hall bounced into the end zone from 1 yard out, as the Rams again scored after a Bears' fumble. That padded the advantage to 21-0 at intermission.
"Offensively, we know we need Micah and Vance both to do their thing," said Brown. "We have to keep things balanced in order to be successful. We did a nice job of that tonight."
Keirsey finished eight-of-17 for 110 yards, one touchdown and one interception.