ROOTSTOWN, OH- Robert C. Dunn Field in Rootstown was the scene for the second round Division VI matchup between #10 Mineral Ridge and the host team #2 Rootstown. The Rams were coming off of a first round victory over Jackson-Milton while the Rovers knocked off Portage County rival Southeast last week to advance to round two.
The Rovers began with the ball and moved into Rams territory riding the back of 2,000 yard rusher Dawson Morgan who carried the ball 8 times for 41 yards on the drive. Mineral Ridge was able to hold the Rovers on a 4th & 4 from their 28 yard line forcing a turnover on downs after a Ryan Piscitani pass fell incomplete.
The Rams took over at the Rovers 28 yard line and put together a 7 play, 72 yard drive aided by a 15 yard pass interference call against the Rovers. Rams QB Owen Shingledecker found Ethan Pemberton on a 23 yard scoring strike. Landon Pal converted the PAT giving Mineral Ridge a 7-0 lead with 3:23 to play in the first quarter. That was the score after one quarter.
The second quarter was a defensive battle highlighted by a Rams interception by Julian Rozzi and two huge back to back sacks to end the first half by Rovers Tristan McKibben and Kyle Kuharic knocking the Rams out of field goal range late in the second quarter. The half ended with a Nick Malek interception of a Shingledecker pass.
Back to Back Rovers sacks by McKibben & Kuharic
It was more of the same to start the second half with neither offense threatening to score in the third quarter. With just over a minute left in the third, the Rams were forced to punt from their 18 yard line when the snap sailed over the punters head and was kicked out of the back of the end zone for a safety giving the Rovers their first points of the game. After the free kick, Rovers QB Ryan Piscitani was picked off by Rams DB Kaiden McCune on the 4th play. The Rams led 7-2 heading into the final quarter.
The Rovers defense was able to hold firm after the turnover forcing a 3 and out. They took over at their own 17 yard line looking to take their first lead of the game. They began with four straight Dawson Morgan runs, the last of which was fumbled at the 30 yard line. Rams DB Julian Rozzi was able to scoop the ball up and return in 30 yards down the sideline for the Rams touchdown. Pal's PAT put the Rams up 14-2 with 8:09 to play in the game.
The Mineral Ridge defense stepped up big once again holding the Rovers to three straight incomplete passes forcing a punt on 4th & 10 from their own 23 yard line. The Rams took over at their own 24 yard line and were able to eat some clock moving into Rovers territory. The Rovers held the Rams on a 3rd & 13 forcing a 32 yard field goal attempt by Landon Pal. He drilled it through the uprights with plenty of distance to spare putting the Rams up 17-2 with only 2:36 to play.
The Mineral Ridge kickoff went out of bounds giving the Rovers the ball at their 35 yard line. Rootstown would not go down without a fight. After two straight Piscitani incompletions, he connected on a deep 65 yard scoring strike hitting Nick Malek in stride for a big touchdown connection. Blake Mullally drilled the PAT making it a one score game at 17-9 with two minutes to play.
The Rovers then came up with a huge onside kick recovery at midfield giving them an opportunity to tie up the game with just under two minutes to play. Two Morgan runs moved the ball to the Rams 31 yard line before a crucial holding call moved them back 10 yards. A Piscitani 6 yard run forced an 4th and long. The Rams collapsed the pocket and Piscitani was barely able to get rid of the ball forcing a turnover on downs and giving the Rams the 17-9 win.
Mineral Ridge will advance to the Regional Semifinals to face the Mogadore Wildcats who knocked off Pyamtuning Valley.