Miners use second half surge for impressive win
Linton-Stockton coach Brian Oliver made the decision in the offseason to go with a different look this season. The third-year head coach moved players around to make for a smaller but faster offensive line. The move paid off Friday night, as the Class 1A No. 4 Miners dominated the line of scrimmage against a much bigger line and came away with a 35-19 win over Class 2A No. 19 Speedway at Roy Williams Field.
The more athletic front allowed the Miners explosive play-makers in the backfield to carve up the Sparkplugs defense to the tune of 484 yards on the ground.
"They were a lot bigger than us upfront, but we had the speed advantage over them tonight," Oliver mentioned. "We wanted to come out and establish the run and that's exactly what we did. I was proud of the guys effort."
It didn't take the Miners long to make a statement. The hosts took the opening drive 59 yards on just six plays to take a 7-0 lead with nine minutes and 49 seconds left in the first quarter. The offensive line pushed fullback Garrett Mason across the goal line from two yards out to cap off the drive. Mason rumbled for runs of 17 and 14 yards on the drive.
Mitch Eberhardt also had a pair of 10-plus yard gains, as all 59 yards came on the ground.
The Sparkplugs quickly erased the 7-point deficit, as Chris Valentine caught the Miners secondary sleeping on the second play from scrimmage as Davon Klotz hauled in a 58-yard pass and run for the score.
The point after touchdown was missed.
The score remained 7-6, in favor of the Miners, until Jacob Jones gave the Sparkplugs a 13-7 lead on a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. Jones broke a couple tackles on his way to the end zone on the first play of the second frame.
The Miners regained the lead just before halftime, when Meurer capped off an 8-play 42-yard scoring drive when he called his own number for a yard out with 28 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession, the Miners made the mistake of kicking to Jones again, and he returned the kickoff back to the Miners 33 with 18 seconds left before the half. Two plays later, Valentine once again fired a scoring pass behind the Miners secondary, this time to Andrew Fritz from 33 yards away with five seconds left.
After the Miners fifth fumble of the game resulted in their second turnover, the Sparkplugs offense marched down to the Miners 10 -- looking to take a two possession lead. The Miners defense was up to the challenge, as Pierce Jackson kept Speedway from extending its lead when he blocked a 25-yard field goal attempt.
"I just told Dylan Morris to go right and they all would follow him," Jackson said of the block. "They did and it left the crease wide-open for me, I was right there."
The shift in momentum was all the Miners would need.
Three plays later Meurer found pay dirt for the second time in the game, this time from 34 yards out to put the Miners ahead. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the PAT back to the 17, Meurer scrambled to his right and weaved his way through the Sparkplugs defense for the 2-point conversion and a 22-19 lead with 1:32 left in the third quarter.
"That sequence really hurt," Speedway coach Steve Wray said. "We were looking to go up two scores then our offense stalls, and they take it 90 yards the other way...it took all the air right out of us."
Eberhardt and Jackson would add scoring runs of 12 and 6 yards respectively for the final tallies.
Mason led a trio of Miner backs over 100 yards rushing with 136 yards on 19 carries. Eberhardt finished with 131 yards on just 10 carries while, Jackson added 113 on 12 totes. Jackson also hauled in four passes from Meurer for 60 yards.
Meurer added 92 yards on the ground to go along with his 60 through the air.
Speedway gained just 69 yards in the second half.
"You could tell we were in better shape than theme tonight and we just wore them down," Jackson said. "In the fourth quarter, you could see them walking off the field, while we were still hustling in and out of the huddle."
The Sparkplugs coach was disappointed in his teams second half effort.
"We were banged up, there were some cramps, but I think some of the players were just embarrassed with their play and wanted an excuse to get off the field," he said. "They (Linton) were in better shape and the more tough team tonight, and there was no doubt who the better football team was."
Linton-Stockton will host longtime rival Sullivan next Friday night.
Miners 35 , SPARKPLUGS 19
(L) Mason 2 run (Wilson kick)
(S) Klotz 28 pass from Valentine (kick failed)
(S) Jones 43 punt return (McHenry kick)
(L) Meurer 3 run (Wilson kick)
(S) Fritz 33 pass from Valentine (pass failed)
(L) Meurer 34 run (Meurer run)
(L) Eberhardt 12 run (Wilson kick)
(L) Jackson 6 run (Wilson kick)
First downs -- S 8; L 25
Rushes-yards -- S 21-49; L 60-484
Passing yards -- S 151; L 60
Total yards -- S 200; L 544
C-A-I -- S 6-8-0; L 4-6-0
Penalties-yards -- S 4-40; L 7-75
Punts-avg.-- S 5-29; L 2-30
Fumbles-lost S-1; L 5-2
RUSHING -- Speedway, Jones 10-64, King 2-12, Hall 3-8, Valentine 4 (minus 38), Fritz 1-3, Keys 1 (minus 4); Linton Williams 2-12, Mason 19-136, Jackson 12-113, Eberhardt 10-131, Meurer 17-92.
PASSING -- Speedway Valentine 6-8 151 2-0; L Meurer 4-4 60 0-0, Trent 0-2 0 0-0.
RECEIVING -- Speedway Klotz 2-68, Wilcher 1-8, Fritz 2-29, Jones 1-37, Hampton 1-5; Linton Jackson 4-60.