The talk heading into the Northwest regional quarterfinal contest between fourth seeded Gar-Field and fifth seeded Osbourn was centered around how the Indians would match up to the Eagles' speed and which of the two teams would have the better running game. However, after four quarters of high-scoring action, it was Gar-Field whose speed was a factor, and it was the airborne combination of seniors LaRon Hinton and Ryan Mason that led the Indians to a 42-37 victory Saturday, advancing them to the semi-final round for the first time since 2007.
“I woke up to football on television,” said Hinton. “So, I just felt like it was going to be a good day.”
Hinton—who played a career game on offense—caught only three passes, but they all occurred in the first half and each found the end zone. He finished with 182 yards and three touchdowns; he also had two carries for 15 yards and broke up a two-point conversion. At the end of the game his team chanted “MVP.”
“The whole time we were saying 'I'll see you at practice on Monday,'” said Hinton. “We were looking forward to next week. We knew we had this done. When we play hard, we're unstoppable.”
Less than two minutes into the game Hinton caught his first pass on a bubble route behind the line of scrimmage. David Bailey then set a perfect block which allowed Hinton to high-step past a tackler and sprint down the left sideline for a 56-yard score. The Eagles answered with a 9-play, 41-yard drive that concluded with a 34-yard field goal.
The Indians' next possession resulted in a punt, and Osbourn was then held to a three-and-out. With a minute and a half left in the quarter Gar-Field began its third possession which turned out to be a one-play drive. From their own 31 yard line, the Indians lined up with two receivers split wide on each side of the field and a single-man backfield. Shakeem Copeland took the hand-off then quickly found the hole between the left guard and tackle and sprinted untouched 69-yards for the touchdown.
The score by Copeland turned out to be the only rushing touchdown by the Indians. Coming into the game Copeland's 1,232 regular season rushing yards tied for 21st in the metro area, and he ranked 12th in rushing touchdowns with 18. He finished the game with 27 carries for 156 yards.
“I think both teams wanted to stop the run first,” said Gar-Field head coach Thomas Gryder. “Defensively for us, we put a lot of emphasis on the single-wing formation and we felt that we played better in the second half. The bad thing is—and Steve [Schultze] and I talked about this going into the game—we really didn't like playing against each other because we both felt that we were not bad football teams. In a lot of ways you're knocking off some of the better teams, but—as we talked about all week—when you get in the playoffs every team is good and you gotta make plays. We did; we got a couple breaks and took advantage of them.”
Osbourn faced fourth-and-five to start the second quarter, but instead of punting, coach Schultze called a double-reverse flea flicker pass that changed hands four times before junior Conner Lane connected with Santoni Scott for a 22-yard gain. Four plays later, Lane ran a quarterback keeper up the middle to cut Gar-Field's lead to four points.
Hinton's second catch occurred on the ensuing drive from a drag route in which the Eagles' defense left him wide open for a 46-yard touchdown.
“It was a bootleg pass,” said Gryder. “Coach [Sonny] Hagy blitzed a lot today and sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss.”
“I don't know why, but they left me open,” said Hinton. “That's automatic. They were playing man [defense], and for real, we have the best receivers around here, so I don't know why they were playing man.”
The Eagles answered Hinton's touchdown with a 9-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Cedrick Delaney. Osbourn held Gar-Field to three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and on the Eagles' next possession Delaney caught a first down pass behind the line of scrimmage, then found the left sideline and broke three tackles as he barreled for a 43-yard gain. He then scored from the two yard line to give the Eagles the lead.
With less than three minutes to play in the half, Gar-Field took over possession at their own 20 yard line, and on first down Hinton displayed his explosive speed one more time. From the trips left formation, Hinton caught a receiver screen three yards past the line of scrimmage, then followed his blockers to the open field and cruised untouched, 80 yards for the score.
“Shout out to my lineman, they did a terrific job blocking,” said Hinton. “It was easy! Shout out to my entire team.”
Delaney came into the game tied with Copeland for 21st in rushing yards, but had 63 less carries and was ranked seventh in touchdowns with 20. Delaney, however, began the second half in disastrous fashion. Five plays into the second half he almost scored from 13 yards out but fumbled at the goal line, and the ball was recovered by Gar-Field. The Indians put together a 9-play drive, but was stopped on fourth-and-four. Two plays into Osbourn's ensuing drive Delaney again fumbled, this time at the Eagles' 39 yard line, and the ball was returned by Xavier Roscoe for the touchdown—his second this year.
“We made an emphasis for the second man to make the strip because we felt that he was a little loose with the ball,” said Gryder. “It's something we work on in practice and it benefited us today.”
Osbourn cut the lead to four a minute into the final quarter with an 18-yard touchdown catch by Delaney, but the Indians answered back with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Mason to Bailey. With five and a half minutes left, Lane scored with a 1-yard keeper up the middle, but Hinton broke up the two-point conversion pass. Gar-Field then put together a 10-play drive that ran the clock down to less than two minutes and resulted in a punt. After a 4-yard gain and three incomplete passes, the Eagles turned over the ball to the Indians who walked off the field after taking a knee from victory formation.
Gar-Field will face number one seeded Hylton in the semi-final.
“We've already played them once, so we have that as a reference,” said Gryder when asked what the key will be to winning against Hylton Friday. “They're a heck of an All-Star team and they're well coached.”
Mason completed 9-of-13 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns. Bailey had five catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Lane complete 12-of-19 passes for 175 yards, one touchdown and an interception; he carried 18 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Delaney had 7 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown; he rushed 19 times for 106 yards, two touchdowns and fumbled twice.