Tyner players celebrate a fumble recovery.
photo by M.A. Locke
Tyner coach Scott Chandler graciously took in the scene of an overflow crowd as Tyner alumni from far and wide crammed into Bob Evans Stadium for one final time to gaze down upon Wayne Turner Field, where 55 years worth of Ram battles have taken place.
The scene wasn't lost on the second-year Tyner boss, though it was but one of a week's worth of distractions as his top-ranked Rams prepared for their 2A state semifinals bout with York Institute Friday night.
"A lot of people wish they were practicing at Thanksgiving, but nonetheless you try to be mindful of the holiday. The guys sat around all day which isn't part of the usual game day routine being out of school. We had all these former players here along with Coach Turner and coach McCarson for this last game on the field, and we wanted to celebrate it the right way. It was a lot of noise for sure," Chandler said of the situation.
"I told them in the dressing room before we came out after warm-ups that all of that stuff didn't matter. The only thing they needed to worry about was the 48 minutes between them and their goal. Teams are tired this late in the season, and it wasn't a usual week by any stretch, but boy were they locked in for this one. I couldn't be happier with the mindset they brought into tonight," Chandler smiled.
That mindset was one of dominance, as Tyner bid farewell to the turf seeded with so many memories through the years, rattling off three TDs in the game's first eight minutes in a 33-0 crowd pleaser over an outmanned York Institute squad that ends its season at 9-4.
One older sage among the more than 100 former players who were honored at halftime perhaps summed it up best as he cracked "I'm not sure Sergeant York himself felt as discouraged facing those German machine guns during World War I" about the school named in the Medal of Honor's memory.
The Rams (13-1) were that dominate. Tyner will now face Decatur County Riverside (12-2) in the BlueCross 2A Championship tilt next Saturday at Finley Stadium in a 3 p.m. game. Riverside avenged a regular-season loss to Huntingdon with a 26-13 victory.
"It was hard this week, I'm not gonna lie. With all these former players coming back and Coach T being here, there was a lot on us, but we had to keep our eyes on the prize. It wouldn't have mattered if one fan was here or 10,000 to be honest because there was only one thing which stood in our way to getting to the BlueCross Bowl, and weren't going to be denied," said Tyner quarterback Josh Jackson, who threw for three scores and rushed for another in yet another sterling performance.
But for all of the Rams' offensive accolades, it was the defense which took this one by the bridle. Tyner limited the Dragons to just 36 yards of total offense, including 28 rushing yards on 32 attempts as 13 of the attempts yielded negative yardage as seven different Tyner defenders recorded a tackle for loss.
"I think the guys really wanted that seventh shutout because they were tied with the '97 state title team for the record. York pretty much runs the same offense Westmoreland ran against us with some success, so they were really challenged this week. It was obvious they wanted that record," added Chandler.
Amongst the Tyner defenders who especially stood out were Trae Ruffin and Rayshun Hinton, whose father Rory quarterbacked that state title team in 1997. Ruffin had two sacks and three tackles for loss while Hinton forced a fumble and recovered two others, including one on a kickoff which he returned 18 yards for a score.
"My dad talked to me a lot this week about not wasting an opportunity. I've heard about his title all my life, and now I want to go get that ring to quiet him down a bit," laughed Hinton.
"We fed off the crowd for sure. If you went to Tyner then you're part of the Ramily and tonight was pretty special. I think we showed folks if you're going to come at us, you better bring an army," said Ruffin, who also caught a TD pass, his eighth of the playoffs and 16th of the season.
York Institute won the opening toss and wanted the ball, something most teams do in order to keep the Tyner offense saddled as long as possible, but a three-and-out set the tone, and the Rams needed just one play to get on the board. Jackson hit Jarius Cameron on a 61-yard catch-and-run for the score with less than three minutes off the clock. On the ensuing kickoff, a big hit dislodged the ball from the York return man and Hinton scooped it up and his 18-yard score made it 14-0 nine seconds later.
The Rams' third drive saw Jackson hit all four of his passes, including an 18-yarder to Cameron and it was 21-0 with 4:07 still to be played in the opening quarter. The Dragons wound up with negative 12 yards in the first quarter while Jackson was playing pitch and catch in rolling up 103 passing yards in the stanza.
Hinton's big hit forced a fumble on York's first play of the second period and Jaden Isbell recovered it. Jackson hit Marcus Lewis, who made a spectacular diving catch at the 1 for 43 yards and Jackson kept it on the next play as the lead swelled to 27-0. By the time the large throng of former players and coaches made it the sidelines for the halftime celebration, Ruffin had scored what would be the final end zone visit in the field's long history with an 17-yard grab to make it 33-0 at the half.
With the mercy rule in effect, York Institute only ran one play in the third period and it was intercepted by Lewis and Chandler cleared the bench, turning it over to the reserves to finish the record-breaking shutout.
"We had a big job in front of us and we knew it would be another trench battle, but we really executed tonight. It was all about the mindset tonight," said tackle Jonah Chapman, who had anchored the line all year. "We wanted the shutout record and we played like it."
For the Rams, the field finale was their 27th playoff victory on the grass, as the old girl has been good through the years. Only five programs have managed to come in escape with a victory through those playoff years, although York Institute was one of them back in 2006.
Jackson finished his night with a smooth 10-of-14 outing for 205 yards and has now thrown for 1,008 yards in four playoff games on 58-of-86 passes, including 12 scores. His three TD passes brings the Mr. Football finalist to 38 on the season and his yardage total to 3,145.
"We got to 1-0 for another week. Tonight was a special night, and one I know a lot of people will cherish and rightfully so. It was a special evening for the Tyner family and I'm happy we got to send it out on a high note, but we've got another long week ahead of us. Hopefully we will have a big support crowd out at Finley and we can celebrate again," Chandler added.
The title game will be the fourth state championship appearance in program history.
"One more time, man. One more time. Lots of work to put in this week, but man, we can almost taste it," laughed Ruffin as he headed off the field for a final time.
YORK INSTITUTE 0 0 0 0 -- 0
TYNER 21 12 0 0 -- 33
TY -- Jarius Cameron 61 pass from Josh Jackson (Demetri Lovick kick) (9:17, 1st)
TY -- Rayshun Hinton 18 fumble return (Demetri Lovick kick) (9:06, 1st)
TY -- Jarius Cameron 18 pass from Josh Jackson (Demetri Lovick kick) (4:07, 1st)
TY -- Josh Jackson 1 run (kick failed) (10:46, 2nd)
TY -- Trae Ruffin 17 pass from Josh Jackson (kick failed) (5:39, 2nd)
7 FIRST DOWNS 9
32-28 RUSHING 18-74
8 PASSING 205
36 TOTAL 279
2-5-1 PASSES 10-14-0
4-3 FUMBLES 2-2
5-65 PENALTIES 9-83
5-29.8 PUNTS 2-23.5
RUSHING: Blake Voiles 3-28, Bryson Bilbrey 5-7, Logan Panell 3-9, Brett Jones 3-6, Riylin Miller 5-(-6), Myles Leffew 5-(-5), Caden Stover 3-(-8), Nathaniel Heddings 3-(-7) (YI); Jayden Parker 2-37, Jamarie Ballard 2-26, Jarius Cameron 2-12, Josh Jackson 2-6, Markel McKinley 6-(-4) (TY).
PASSING: Myles Leffew 2-3-1 8 yards, Nathaniel Heddings 0-2-2 0 yards (YI); Josh Jackson 10-14-0 205 yards (TY).
RECEIVING: Aiden Sweathomas 1-10, Bryson Bilbrey 1-(-2) (YI); Jarius Cameron 4-105, Trae Ruffin 3-38, Marcus Lewis 2-56, Demetri Lovick 1-6 (TY).
RECORDS: Tyner 13-1, York Institute 9-5.
NEXT UP: December 3, 2022, 3 p.m. 2A State Title game versus Decatur County Riverside (12-2) at UTC Finley Stadium.
(Contact James Beach at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tyner fans celebrate a touchdown.
photo by M.A. Locke