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Berry will try to play against Hampton

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Jim Ference | Trib Total Media
Ringgold's Chacar Berry (left) and Belle Vernon Area's Luke Durigon are expected to play key roles in Friday's Big 10 Conference showdown.

The big question for Ringgold going into tonight’s WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal playoff game with Hampton at West Allegheny (7:30 p.m.) is whether or not Chacar Berry will play.

However, in Ringgold coach Nick Milchovich’s eyes, there is no question at all.

“I have no doubt that Chacar is going to play,” said Milchovich of his star running back. “He’s got a sprained ankle and he hasn’t practiced all week. But I know that he won’t let anything stop him from playing in this game. He is focused on playing, so we will see.

“And if he can’t make a go of it, we will turn to (freshman Brenden Small) at his position. He’s is a very capable player as well.”

Berry (5-8, 180) , who leads Ringgold (9-1) with 1,308 yards rushing and 18 rushing touchdowns, sprained his ankle early in last week’s 24-14 playoff win over Gateway and never returned.

Small (5-9, 170) has 638 yards on 71 carries (8.9 ave.) and has scored 5 TDs.

Last week, Small carried the ball 23 times for 101 yards and scored a TD.

Hampton (9-1) will be a stern test for the Rams, who carry a 9-game winning streak into the contest.

“They have a really sound, solid team,” Milchovich said of the Talbots. “Defensively, they just don’t make mistakes. They don’t let people get behind them and they tackle very well. When they hit you, you go down.

“Offensively, they like to run the ball with both backs and their quarterback can run, too. They try to lull you to sleep and then hit you with play-action passes.”Milchovich said the key to Hampton’s attack is quarterback Nick Grabowski (6-3, 220).

“He’s a dual-threat kid who is very big,” Milchovich said. “If he gets to running the ball against us, we could be in trouble. And he passes well enough that you have to respect the pass. There is no doubt he will have our attention.”

The game pits two evenly matched squads as Hampton is the No. 4 seed and Ringgold is No. 5 in the bracket.

However, Milchovich said he isn’t concerned with which team has the better talent. His only concern is who is hungrier.

“I want to be the hungrier team,” he said. “I’ve come to realize that at this point, the best team is not the one that always wins. It’s the team who wants it more, who is hungrier.

“I know I don’t want this thing to end. I want to practice on Monday and I’m confident that our players feel the same way. I sense they are real hungry.”

Grabowski isn’t the only dual-threat quarterback who will be on display tonight.

Ringgold’s senior signal caller Nico Law has passed for over 1,100 yards and rushed for close to 700. Law has thrown for 13 TDs and rushed for nine more.

Last week, he rushed for 93 yards.

“He’s a catalyst,” Milchovich said of Law.

Milchovich said his team is in the proper frame of mind going into the game.

“I was a little concerned that after last week, they would be happy with just winning a playoff game,” he said. “But I found out that is not the case. They know they can beat anybody and they don’t want the season to end.”

PLAYOFF TIDBITS: The winner of tonight’s game will play the winner of the Central Valley (10-0) vs. Indiana (7-3) contest in the semifinals … Ringgold (38.7 ppg) is the fourth-highest scoring team remaining in the AAA field behind Central Valley (47.8), Thomas Jefferson (47.0) and West Allegheny (44.0). Hampton (11.2 ppg) is second in defensive scoring behind TJ (9.0).

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or [email protected].

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