Cumberland Times-News

Columns

September 21, 2013

Miners’ belief leads to their just reward

There were high fives.

There were hugs.

There were cheers.

There was a dousing of the head coach with icy water from the water cooler.

But most of all, there were smiles from the Mountain Ridge players and coaches and fans Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.

It wasn’t a state championship. Wasn’t a league championship. Wasn’t even a homecoming game. But veteran head coach Roy DeVore, with 132 wins under his belt, called it one of the biggest of his 20-year career.

It’s been a long time since Mountain Ridge saw a scoreboard at the end of a football game look like the one at Greenway did. When the clock hit all zeroes, not only did the game end, but so did a losing streak that surely had tested the patience of everyone in the program to some degree.

It started with a 27-12 playoff loss at Boonsboro in 2011, continued through an 0-10 season in 2012, reached a dirty dozen with a 28-6 loss at Jefferson two weeks ago, and sat at 13 entering the game against Allegany.

A little over two hours later, the streak was ancient history, and for many big reasons.

• Rashawn Johnson put on one of the finer performances in stadium history with 292 yards of total offense — 258 yards rushing, 34 passing — and scoring 26 points with four touchdowns and a two-point conversion. He now has 555 yards of total offense in the last two games.

• Big plays, on both sides of the ball.

Johnson had two incredible runs, showcasing power and speed on both, a 62-yard TD run in the first half and a 53-yard run in the second.

The offense converted 7 of 10 third downs, ran for 343 yards and finished with 407. That’s 765 yards of offense in the last two games for the Miners, who had lost at Hedgesville 61-35 the previous week.

• The Miners defense, which had given up 89 points in two games, allowed only 21, had four takeaways.

None were bigger than the ones by Ian McCormick, Brandon Redmond and Matt Whetstone.

McCormick forced a fumble and ran 62 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter; Redmond intercepted a pass in the third that led to another; and Whetstone picked up a fumble near midfield and returned it to the Allegany three to set up a third touchdown.

All came with Allegany driving in Mountain Ridge territory.

“This was Mountain Ridge’s night,” DeVore said. “I have to agree with that 100 percent. We got the breaks. They all went our way. I’m really proud of the kids because I think we made the breaks. But we had some luck, too.”

This Mountain Ridge team was on a mission Friday night. The Miners weren’t among the many who thought it to be a mission impossible.

“We’ve been telling our kids forever that they’ve got to believe in themselves. And tonight they did,” said DeVore. “And they showed it here, at Greenway Avenue Stadium. It’s so gratifying to see the kids perform, doing what they know they can do, and having it in their hearts to do it.”

Last year, the Miners were outscored 440-62, and lost to Allegany 58-0.

Friday night’s win was about much more than avenging a loss or stopping a streak. It was about being rewarded.

It was a reward for the coaches and players for sticking with it and not giving in or giving up when times were difficult. And it was a reward for the fans, who did the same, never giving up and always being supportive. Those fans were there for Friday night’s game, just as they had been the previous 13.

The offensive line was consistant and effective. The defensive line’s quick surges caused problems much of the night.

“We preached to the kids (about overlooking them) ... Mountain Ridge had played two really good triple-A teams. They came out and were hungry. I think they outplayed us up front and that’s the difference in the ball game,’’ said Allegany coach Tom Preaskorn.

They’re a hungry bunch, all right. Friday night, they looked like they were starving for a win.

They got it. And while no one’s putting the Miners in the playoffs just yet, there’s little doubt their next win will come much quicker than the previous one.

Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at mmathews@times-news.com

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