Springfield holds off Mineral Ridge
The weather wreaked havoc during the first 24 minutes of the game.
By GREG GULAS
NEW MIDDLETOWN - On Senior Night, Casey Jones had a game that he won't forget.
Saving his best for last, Jones not only thwarted a Mineral Ridge drive in the first half with a fumble recovery and scored the game's only touchdown in the fourth quarter, but his interception with 45 seconds remaining was the icing on the cake as Springfield High turned back the Rams, 7-0 in an Inter Tri-County League game.
Both teams finish the season 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the ITCL, but the Rams still had hope before the game of advancing to the Division VI playoffs. Springfield defeated Mineral Ridge for the first time since 2002 and won its final game of the regular season for the first time since 2003.
"I'll never forget this game. I kind of had my doubts about the outcome the way the rain kept coming down, and in a way I didn't want this game to end. But it all worked out and it sure is a good feeling to get this win," Jones said.
"We played a lot of close games this season, but this win helps to lay the foundation for next year's squad. Next year's team returns quite a bit of talent and should be a force to reckon with."
Playing in a steady downpour, neither team could get untracked in the first half as the Tigers could get no closer than the Rams 22, while Mineral Ridge penetrated to the Tigers 21 before Nick Dominic's 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Adam Shankle.
The weather wreaked havoc with both offenses in the first 24 minutes as Mineral Ridge managed just 79 total yards (70 via the ground) and the Tigers 64 -- all but 18 coming via their air game.
The first five possessions of the second half resulted in a three and out for both teams, but Jones' 6-yard scamper into the end zone with 8:42 remaining capped a 9-play, 53-yard drive for a 7-0 Tigers advantage.
On the next series, the Rams drove to the Tigers 20, but Joey Miller's pass was intercepted by Brandon Goist at the Springfield 16 and returned 69 yards, breaking the Rams' back on their deepest penetration of the game.
"It's always a good feeling to win the final game of the year for the seniors. To send them off with a win is always special," Tigers coach John Smith said.
Key players returning
"We have a lot of key players returning next year and a nice core from which to build. That is the exciting part about tonight's win."
The Tigers managed just 132 total yards, 74 coming through the air. Junior quarterback Nate Schuler completed 6-of-9 passes with an interception.
"Schuler is a special player," said Smith.
"He improved every practice, every week and every game. He is a big part of that returning group that we will be counting on next season."
The Rams had 132 yards on the ground and 144 yards overall as A.J. Zitello rushed for 39 yards on 18 carries and Miller added 37 yards on 10 tries.
"The weather kind of eliminated each playbook tonight. The team that scored first definitely had the upper hand," said Mineral Ridge coach Dom Leone.
"Before the season I said 5-5 would have been acceptable. When you get to 6-3 with a chance at the playoffs, then I'd say we should be pleased with our season."