The team that makes the key adjustment in football typically wins.
No. 10 Mingo Central was the poster child for that Friday night.
The Miners overcame three first-half turnovers, shifting from a passing attack that accumulated over 3,900 yards during the regular season to a zone read attack that utilized quarterback Daylin Goad as a rusher, to defeat No. 10 Shady Spring 13-7 at H.B. Thomas Field in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.
With a lack of experience on natural grass that limited their receivers’ cutting ability, coupled with a 32-degree night, the Miners made the shift to a run-heavy offense shortly after halftime.
“We were going to pound that ball and pound that ball,” Mingo Central head coach Josh Sammons said. “It was tough out here. It was a little muddy and we’re not used to that. We played nine games on turf, but we got the job done and I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.
“After about that first quarter, we knew we were going to have to establish the run game. I felt like we came out and established that in the third quarter and late in the fourth quarter and it kind of paid off for us.”
Though early when Mingo tried to establish the run, it was met with little success.
After the host Tigers went three-and-out on their first drive, Mingo struck quickly with a 43-yard completion from Goad to Devin Hatfield, flipping the field. The Miners drove all the way to the 3-yard line for firstand- goal, but two incompletions and a penalty on third down pushed them back to the 18, with the Tigers forcing a turnover on downs.
Later in the quarter, Shady’s lockdown defense carried the momentum from a regular season in which it forced 28 takeaways, forcing a Tanner Cisco fumble and recovering it at the Mingo 49. The drive ended in disappointment for Shady, though, as a 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked to keep the game scoreless.
Keeping the momentum on that side of the ball, the Tigers again forced a Cisco fumble in the second quarter and recovered it at the Mingo 45. But, again, the Tigers failed to put any points on the board in a scoreless game.
“I thought we did well,” Shady Spring head coach Vince Culicerto said. “That’s a team that’s been averaging over 40 points a game and the defense came up and showed big tonight.”
The scoring finally broke loose with under five minutes to go when a perfectly executed tight end screen to Erick Bevil saw the senior speed 61 yards down the right sideline for the game’s first score, giving Shady a 7-0 lead. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Mingo Central’s next drive, aided by a third down pass interference penalty that came in late and an unnecessary roughness penalty, saw the Miners answer when Goad powered in from five yards out.
Though yielding points, the Tigers defense again stepped up just before the break, intercepting Goad in the end zone on the final play of the half, but at that point Mingo knew what its blueprint to winning was.
The first drive of the second half didn’t result in any points for the Miners, but it was a grueling seven-minute drive that wore down the Shady defense. That trend continued into the final quarter when Goad again found paydirt on a 15-yard rush for a 13-7 lead.
Shady’s last hurrah inspired optimism, with quarterback Drew Clark escaping a sack for an 11-yard completion to Haven Chapman, followed by a 15-yard run from Isaac Bragg. But on third down at the 20, Clark’s heave landed in the arms of Hatfield, who extended his left arm, pushing Valentine to the ground.
With under three minutes left, Goad ripped off runs of 35 and 20 yards to cap the win.
“Not exactly,” Sammons said when asked if Goad was utilized as a runner much. “He knows when it comes down to nitty gritty time tough, when there’s those short yardage plays, he’s going to carry the ball. We know that, they know that, but they’ve still got to stop us. They’ve got 11, we’ve got 11 and it just comes down to that.”
For Shady, the game ends the careers of a senior class that delivered back-to-back playoff berths, turning a threewin program into a 174 program over the last two seasons.
“These are kids that stuck around and they stuck around when they were freshmen and it was rough,” Culicerto said. “It’s tough to want to go out for a team that’s losing seven or eight games and getting beat bad. They wanted to play for Shady. They stuck it out and reaped the rewards. They deserve it, because they’re the ones that hung around. I hate it for them that we didn’t get them another game, but I’m real proud of them.”