Ringgold, CV not exactly ‘Odd Couple’
At first glance, Ringgold and Central Valley could be high school football’s version of “The Odd Couple.”
For instance, the Rams have been playing football for 45 years, dating back to 1969, while the Warriors have only been in existence since 2010.
Fifth-seeded Ringgold (10-1), while being in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, has not enjoyed much success after getting there. This is the Rams’ first trip to the semifinals since 1987 and they haven’t won a title since 1982.
Top seed CV (11-0) has never failed to at least reach the semifinals in its five-year existence. The Warriors twice played in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game and won the crown in 2010.
While the Rams have been busy trying to rebuild a football tradition one brick at a time, the Warriors immediately built a mansion of tradition that they have occupied since Day One.
“They are undefeated and the top seed for a reason,” Ringgold coach Nick Milchovich said of the Warriors.
However, a closer look at the teams shows more similarities than one might think.
When CV coach Mark Lyons was asked to compare Ringgold to any other team his Warriors faced this season, said the Rams remind him of his own team.
Both teams have balanced offenses that feature amazingly talented skill position players.
They have also featured “bend but don’t break” defenses. Ringgold has given up 17.6 ppg while CV has given up 14.9.
“I think we both have playmakers, players who if you give them just a little opening can go the distance,” Milchovich said. “We like to spread the ball around and not rely on just one player and they are the same way. They also do a nice job of utilizing all of their talent.”
Quarterback Nico Law has been the trigger for Ringgold’s explosive offense, throwing for 1,108 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 784 yards and 11 more scores.
He has four receivers who have caught at least 11 passes: Dalton Holt (12 receptions, 272 yards, 4 TDs), Brandon Thomas (12-192, 2 TDs), Jake Gerard (11-171, 4 TDs) and Skyler Scholl (14-159, 1 TD).
Lately, the focus of attention for the Rams has not been the versatile Law, but the health of running back Chacar Berry.
Berry, who has rushed for 1,341 yards and 18 TDs and caught 8 passes for 141 yards and another score, has been hampered by an ankle sprain that limited his effectiveness in the Rams’ 21-20 overtime win over Hampton in the quarterfinals.
Milchovich said Berry has been a full participant in practice all week and appears to be fine.
“He’s doing a lot better,” Milchovich said. “This has been a very positive week for him, and we feel a lot better about him than we did a week ago. Chacar is ready to play.”
Freshman Brenden Small (84-689, 5 TDs) has been a capable replacement for Berry, but Milchovich feels he is even better as a complement to the junior running back when he is healthy.
Milchovich said his defense played its best game of the season against Hampton, and that kind of effort will have to be repeated tonight.
“This may sound basic, but we have to play fundamentally sound football on defense against them,” he said. “We have to tackle well and stay in our gaps.
“There is no magic defense to stop them. We just need to do what we are capable of.”
PLAYOFF TIDBITS: Kickoff for the game at Chartiers Valley is set for 7:30 p.m. … Marcus McCullough, a member of the last Ringgold team to reach the semifinals, gave an emotional talk to the team before Wednesday’s practice. “Everybody was quiet and listened to every word he said,” Milchovich said. “It was really good for the team.” … Milchovich said last week’s game, in which the Rams turned the ball over five times, was a product of jitters and said overcoming those mistakes and winning has given the team confidence that it can beat anyone under trying circumstances. “Of course, we can’t afford to have five turnovers against Central Valley,” he noted.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or [email protected].