Published: Sunday, October 1, 2006
Rayen wins historic game by 10
The Tigers won their final game at Rayen Stadium, 30-20, over Akron East.
By JOHN KOVACH
YOUNGSTOWN The Rayen School football team made some more history Saturday, winning the final game at its historic stadium.
Some 2,500 fans turned out to witness the final homecoming game, despite rain that fell on and off for most of the first half. The Tigers didn't disappoint them, breaking away from a 14-14 third-quarter tie to defeat Akron East, 30-20.
Junior quarterback Sal Battles ran for touchdowns of 6, 3 and 27 yards, with outstanding blocking from the offensive line, despite the muddy field that hampered the speedy players for both teams.
"The team definitely had some extra incentive," said Coach Brian Shaner of Rayen (5-1), referring to the fact that the Tigers wanted to leave their home field as a winner.
Shaner said his team, which is ranked 10th in Region 7 of Division II, displayed "perseverance. We never gave up. We got a little flat and I thought the game might slip away, but we came back."
Thornton, Slade help
Rayen also got a strong performance from junior running back Gary Thornton, who ran for two conversions and blocked well for Battles; and senior running back Stevie Slade, who scored the Tigers' other TD on a 1-yard plunge and had two other nice runs.
"Battles is a playmaker. When you get the ball in his hands you never know what is going to happen," said Shaner.
Battles led Rayen's attack with 151 yards rushing in 18 carries, and he was 2-for-3 passing for 13 yards. Thornton added 95 yards rushing on 22 carries while Slade had 25 yards on three runs.
But one of the key plays in the game was the safety in the third quarter that snapped the 14-14 tie, when Akron East, penned against its goal at the 2-yard line, lost the ball out of bounds by an aggressive rush by the Tigers' defense .
"We stole their momentum in the second half. But the safety was the turning point," said Akron East (3-3) coach Damon Beasley.
After the safety, Akron East kicked off and Rayen returned the ball to the Orientals' 43. Then Battles reeled 38 yards to the 5-yard to set up his 3-yard scoring dash, capped by Thornton's conversion that pushed Rayen ahead, 24-14.
However, Akron East rebounded again when Hicks connected on a 62-yard pass to Javay Cox to the Rayen 3. After the Rayen defense stopped the Orientals on three straight plays, Hicks finally hit Willie Shropshire for the TD to pull his team to within 24-20.
But Rayen took the ensuing kickoff and marched 53 yards in six plays to Battles' 27-yard scoring dash in the fourth quarter to seal the verdict.
Rayen jumps ahead
Rayen took an 8-0 lead in the first period on Battles' 6-yard run and Thornton's conversion to complete a a seven-play, 40-yard march.
Then in the second quarter, Rayen boosted its lead to 14-0 on Slade's 1-yard plunge that finished a six-play, 40-yard drive.
Hicks got East untracked when he hit Colen Rushin on an 8-yard TD strike in the second quarter that capped a 51-yard, five-play drive just before half to pull the Orientals to 14-6.
"Our offensive line played well," said Shaner, lauding the blocking of center Mykal Krill, guard E.J. Hines and tackle Jarell Murray. "Center Mykal Krill had a dominating game. E.J. Hines at guard had his best game. [And] Jarell Murray at tackle made every block that he had to make."
Hicks, a tall senior, led Akron East with 225 yards passing on 20-for-37 and two TDs, while Javay Cox had six catches for 85 yards and one TD.
Rayen rushed for 283 yards in 45 plays while Akron East managed only 50 yards in 20 rushes.