PHILIPSBURG - Richland's John Rizzo is 6-foot-1, 235 pounds and has tree trunks for legs, but when he gets in the open field, the senior can flat out fly.
Unfortunately for second-seeded Philipsburg-Osceola, Rizzo found a lot of open room in Saturday night's District 5-6 Class AA semifinal game at Memorial Field.
Rizzo, a two-time state champion in wrestling, rumbled for 257 yards on 21 carries, scored on runs of 54 and 72 yards, and if he hadn't run the offense as the trigger man in the wildcat formation, he would have run for over 300. He combined with Luke Rozich for 401 yards on the ground to lead the third-seeded Rams past the Mounties, 35-21.
Photo for the Mirror by Mike Czap
Richland’s John Rizzo tries to elude two Philipsburg-Osceola defenders in the open field.
"We gave up too many big plays to expect to win," P-O coach Jeff Vroman said. "You've got to make them work for it, and we didn't."
"I feel great right now," Rizzo said. "I have to give props to Philipsburg. It's tough to win up here, but we came out, worked our butts off, made some adjustments at halftime and our kids just came to play. Everyone made big plays."
The win moved the Rams (10-2) into the finals next weekend against top-seeded Tyrone at Mansion Park. The game will be played Friday night.
"We believe we can beat them," Rizzo said. "We've got to prepare and work our butts off."
For the Mounties, who finished with a 9-3 mark, it was another frustrating loss in the semifinals. They're 0-5 in the semis under Vroman.
The seniors gathered in the center of the field afterward, hugged, cried and posed for a photo. Lyle Lanich, a 6-3, 320-pounder, fell to his knees and his head dropped to the ground. This one was tough to take.
"A lot of people look at football as just game nights, but it's just more than that," Vroman said. "Their parents need to be proud of them. We're sending some fine, young gentlemen out into the world. Their leadership qualities from things they've done for the school, for themselves, for their families and for my family is something you can't keep score of."
Rizzo set the tone on the Rams' first play, blazing 54 yards for a touchdown 3:45 into the game. Bobby Colvin added a 34-yard field goal with 8.8 seconds left in the first quarter, and Richland led, 10-0.
P-O responded by going 55 yards on eight plays and finishing it off with a Cody Lee 1-yard TD run.
But on the third play of the next series, Rizzo bolted 72 yards for a score, outracing Mike Marcinko to the goal line.
"My line did a great job blocking," Rizzo said, "and I was able to use my speed to get to the outside and outrun those guys."
"He was great in so many different dimensions," Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. "He makes things difficult for opposing defenses."
The Mounties fired back with a 50-yard scoring drive, finishing it off with another Cody Lee 1-yard run, and Nick Boumerhi's PAT made the score 16-14. Michael John led P-O in rushing with 21 carries for 137 yards.
P-O was thwarted twice inside the red zone in the first half. The second time came when Zach Solarczyk picked off Marcinko at the 1.
"We were trying to make a play," Vroman said.
Rozich (144 yards on 12 carries) extended the lead in the third quarter by darting 72 yards for a score. Colvin's PAT was blocked by Lee, making the score 22-14. Rozich added a 9-yard dagger in the fourth quarter to give the Rams a two-touchdown lead.
Marcinko, who threw for 118 yards, got P-O to within a TD with a 5-yard pass to Aaron McKnight with 4:02 left. But Richland QB Matt Shaffer connected with a Kyle Flick on a 6-yarder in the corner of the end zone with 1:55 left to salt the win away.
"We were in the ballgame up until the end," Vroman said. "At this stage, that's all you can hope for. We were just one or two plays short at different times during the game. Our kids played hard."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Richland10 6 6 13 -35
Philipsburg-Osceola0 14 0 7 -21
R-Rizzo 54 run (Colvin kick), 8:15
R-Colvin 34 FG, :08.8
PO-Lee 1 run (N. Boumerhi kick), 8:43
R-Rizzo 72 run (Kick failed), 7:03
PO-Lee 1 run (N. Boumerhi kick), 5:35
R-Rozich 72 run (Kick failed), 3:37
R-Rozich 9 run (Pass failed), 8:08
PO-McKnight 5 pass from Marcinko (N. Boumerhi kick), 4:02
R-Flick 6 pass from Shaffer (Colvin kick), 1:55
RUSHING: Richland-Rizzo 21-257, Rozich 12-144, Shaffer 3-7, TEAM 2-(-2), T. Solarczyk 3-(-3). Philipsburg-Osceola-John 21-137, McKnight 4-31, Lee 12-25, Marcinko 4-14.
PASSING: Richland-Shaffer 5-8-1-55, Pecora 0-1-0-0. Philipsburg-Osceola-Marcinko 9-22-2-118.
RECEIVING: Richland-Hanley 2-27, Rozich 1-15, Flick 2-13. Philipsburg-Osceola-McKnight 5-77, John 3-36, Lee 1-5.
Interceptions: Richland-Z. Solarczyk, Ludwig. Philipsburg-Osceola-Marcinko.
Passing (comp.-att.-int)5-9-1 9-22-2