JOHNSTOWN - Load the box, they'll sling the ball around. Cover the receivers, they've got two big threats to run the ball.
Tyrone football coach Steve Guthoff knew what Richland's game plan was going to be Firday night, but his team could do nothing to slow down the high-powered Rams offense as the Golden Eagles fell in the District 6 Class AA semifinals, 43-22, at Herlinger Field.
Photo for the Mirror
by Tami Ogline Knopsnyder
Richland’s Kyle Flick picks off a pass intended for Charles Wilson-Adams.
"Pick your poison," Guthoff said. "They have two primarily great receivers that we had to be aware of. You take some guys out of the box to cover them, then they hit you with [running back Tanner] Solarczyk. Their offensive line played outstanding tonight and really dominated up front. That was the story of the game. We couldn't contain their offense."
Top-seeded Richland (12-0) amassed an incredible 523 yards of offense - 336 on the ground - had 28 first downs, and completely picked apart Tyrone's defense.
"That's our expectation," Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. "Our goal is to hit 250 [yards] throwing and 250 running. Some people think that's a lot of yards, but that's our expectation. We're going to run a lot of plays."
And many of those plays were huge, including Solarczyk's 47-yard run that helped set up a late first-half Rams touchdown.
Just before the run, fourth-seeded Tyrone seemed poised to cut into Richland's 17-7 lead with a promising drive that killed 7:27 off the clock.
The Golden Eagles (8-4) methodically moved the ball 59 yards to the Rams 21 before a flag moved them back five yards.
On third-and-13, Erik Wagner almost connected with Charlie Wilson-Adams in the end zone, but Richland's Kyle Flick knocked the ball away at the last second.
Then on the next play James Oliver led Wagner too much on a halfback pass to turn the ball over on downs.
With 25 seconds left in the quarter, instead of kneeling on the ball and heading to halftime, Bailey took a chance and Solarczyk rumbled all the way to the Tyrone 27 yard line.
Two plays later, Matt Shaffer zipped a pass to Flick for a 17-yard score.
"Our kids made some great plays with some awesome blocks on Tanner's big run," Bailey said. "The throw to Flick was a great pass and a great catch. It's what those kids have been doing all season long.
"That was huge. They don't want to play from behind. They have an exceptional back, and they want to hand it to him 25 or 30 times. When you get down 17 points, then you have to change your game plan a little bit."
That's exactly what happened.
After forcing the Eagles to go three-and-out on their first possession of the third quarter, the Rams added to their lead on a 10-play, 71-yard drive capped by Shaffer's 17-yard TD run.
From there, since Tyrone was in catch-up mode, Richland successfully took the ball out of Oliver's hands.
The junior entered the game with 1,849 yards and 26 touchdowns.
He was held to just 36 yards on 14 touches.
"We felt we were going to be able to move the ball and do some things," Guthoff said. "They stopped us from getting the long runs. We needed to try to control the clock, we needed to try to get the four to five yards on the ground. But it got away from us in the second half."
Wilson-Adams tried to make things interesting in the second half, though.
Wagner connected with him nine times on the night for 246 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson-Adams made several knee-buckling moves and broke multiple tackles, especially on his 22- and 80-yard scoring receptions in the fourth quarter.
"It was just an outstanding effort," Guthoff said of Wilson-Adams. "Even with the shorter routes, just being able to catch the ball and make things happen. That's what we were looking for for most of the year and we finally got it right at the end.
"Chuck is an outstanding football player. And he's a great defensive back for us, too."
Offensively, Tyrone had just 39 rushing yards which indirectly paved the way for Wagner's 332-yard effort on 16-of-24 passing.
"It would have been nice to mix that in with the running game, but we were so out of rhythm offensively with what we were trying to do," Guthoff said. "We're not a team that's going to win by the pass."
There wasn't much that Richland didn't do well, including winning the turnover battle, 4-1.
"You're in playoff football," Guthoff said. "Turnovers are important. It's so cliche, but when you get in the playoffs, whoever turns the ball over is going to lose. That's pretty much the bottom line."
Solarczyk had 181 yards on 15 carries, added four receptions for 48 yards and had two rushing touchdowns. Shaffer finished the night completing 14-of-19 attempts for 140 yards. He added 81 rushing yards on 14 carries and had two rushing TDs.
Luke Shertzer hauled in eight passes for 92 yards, and Flick had four catches for 32 yards and a score.
"I give them lots of credit," Guthoff said. "They are an outstanding football team. We knew that coming in that we had our hands full. It didn't help that there were a lot of things that we didn't so well tonight."
"I think our players were great in all three facets," Bailey said. "Offensively, we kept them off balance with the run and the pass. Tanner had a big game, Matt had a big game running. Our receivers caught the things that were thrown to them. All of that happens because of the offensive line."
Richland advances to its second straight district title game and will face the winner of tonight's Forest Hills-Ligonier Valley contest.
"It's exciting," Bailey said. "Going over to play at Mansion Park, it's an awesome experience. I'm so happy that our kids get to experience that. As a player, I had the opportunity to do it twice and won one as a senior. That's a special moment that I will always remember. These kids were able to get there back-to-back years. That's something that they'll always have."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tyrone7 0 0 15 - 22
Richland14 10 6 13 - 43
R-Shaffer 18 run (Colvin kick), 9:34.
R-Solarczyk 31 run (Colvin kick), 6:41.
T-Wilson-Adams 59 pass from Wagner (Gurekovich kick), 3:08.
R-Colvin 22 FG, 7:52.
R-Flick 17 pass from Shaffer (Colvin kick), 0:01.
R-Shaffer 17 run (pass failed), 5:39.
R-Pecora 15 run (kick failed), 9:10.
T-Wilson-Adams 22 pass from Wagner (Umholtz kick), 6:42.
R-Solarczyk 34 run (Colvin kick), 5:20.
T-Wilson-Adams 80 pass from Wagner (Woomer pass from Wagner), 4:59.
RUSHING: Tyrone-Oliver 14-36, Snyder 3-9, Sleeth 1-1, Wagner 4-(-7). Richland-Solarczyk 15-181, Shaffer 14-81, Farina 3-23, Pecora 3-21, Fesko 3-17, Hoover 2-14, Somian 1-(-1).
PASSING: Tyrone-Wagner 16-24-1-332, Oliver 0-1-0-0. Richland-Shaffer 14-19-1-140, Pecora 4-8-0-47, Bergman 0-0-0-0.
RECEIVING: Tyrone-Wilson-Adams 9-246, Zook 4-61, Snyder 2-12, Woomer 1-13. Richland-.Shertzer 8-92, Solarczyk 4-48, Flick 4-32, Rizzo 1-11, Metzgar 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS: Tyrone-K. Taylor. Richland-Flick.