MONROEVILLE — The Keystone Wildcats had grown bitterly accustomed to their annual Week 1 ritual. Year after year, the faces would change, but the results would not.
The Monroeville Eagles would kick off the football season with a thorough whipping of the Wildcats. Monroeville had dominated the series with 25 wins in their 27 meetings.
But history, apparently, is changing and the change arrived swiftly and decisively. Behind the explosive bursts of tailback Shane Robinson and an opportunistic defense that forced five interceptions, Keystone defeated Monroeville 34-8 Friday for its first victory over the Eagles in 10 years and first road victory over them since 1991.
“We’ve started 0-1 for so many years in a row now, it’s time we finally did something about it,” said Keystone quarterback Mike Herb. “All these guys, we’ve grown up playing football together and every year we’ve been aware of Monroeville and how long it’s been that they’ve been beating us. It’s like a new beginning for us now.”
The Wildcats have talked about contending for a Patriot Athletic Conference championship, and based on Friday’s performance it would be hard to doubt them. The offense repeatedly ripped off long gains behind a physical offensive line that steadily wore down the Monroeville defense and the shifty runs of Robinson, who ripped off 19 rushes for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
Monroeville’s dominance has not been limited to Keystone. The Eagles have advanced to the postseason in each of the last five years. But on Friday, they had no answer for Robinson.
In the second half, Robinson’s first nine touches accounted for a staggering 158 yards, during which time Keystone turned a 14-8 ballgame into a thorough rout. The Wildcats scored on each of their first three possessions following halftime, all of them capped by Robinson dives into the end zone.
It was a sudden shift. No sooner had Robinson scored on a 16-yard touchdown to take a 21-8 lead with 7:57 left in the third quarter, then Kyle Shaw, a senior defensive back, stepped in front of a pass from Monroeville’s Brian Ringholz.
On Robinson’s first touch from scrimmage, he cut toward the sideline, turned the corner and burst 49 yards deep into Eagle territory, setting the tone for the second half.
“We didn’t tackle well the whole game and in the third quarter it really hurt us,” said Monroeville coach Steve Ringholz. “Why we didn’t tackle, I don’t know. I know that back is good, but he made us look like some poor tacklers, that’s for sure.”
Afterward, the senior back, who measures in at a diminutive 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, lumbered slowly off the field, overcome by cramps.
“I’m hurting everywhere – but it’s a good kind of hurt,” he said. “I’ve been playing varsity football basically since I was a freshman and every year it’s been about beating Monroeville. We’ve come close at times, but we didn’t want that anymore. We wanted to finally beat them.”
The Eagles were successful in shredding Keystone’s defense through the air, led by Brian Ringholz, who completed 14 of 27 passes for 219 yards. But as the game wore on, the Wildcat secondary stayed back, waiting for Ringholz to make a mistake. And in time, he did. Keystone defensive back Tyler Minnich had two of his team’s five interceptions, the first of which he returned 6 yards for a touchdown in the opening quarter.
“This is a great start,” said Keystone coach Rob Clarico. “But we also have to be ready for the weeks that come because last year we had a big win against Buckeye and didn’t win a game the rest of the season. You can’t be satisfied with this. I came here four years ago and these guys were my freshmen, so we’ve all grown up together. I told them that this is our turn. Maybe this is our time.”
MAKING HISTORY? Keystone’s victory over Monroeville might have been a long time coming, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to a winning season. The only other time the Wildcats beat the Eagles on the road came in 1991, a 14-13 victory, but they ended up losing seven of their next nine games. In 1996, following a 20-12 win in LaGrange, the Wildcats again went 3-7.
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keystone 34, Monroeville 8
Keystone 0 14 14 6 — 34
Monroeville 0 8 0 0 — 8
K—Tyler Minnich 6 interception return (Tim Beverage kick)
M—Nick O’Neil 5 pass from Brian Ringholz (O’Neil pass from Ringholz)
K—Matt Herb 16 pass from Mike Herb (Beverage kick)
K—Shane Robinson 16 run (Beverage kick)
K—Robinson 9 run (Beverage kick)
K—Robinson 1 run (missed kick)
First downs 15 12
— by rushing 11 4
— by passing 3 7
— by penalty 1 1
Yards rushing 264 85
Yards passing 83 219
Total offense 347 304
Passes att./comp. 11/6 27/14
Intercepted by 0 5
Fumbles/lost 1/0 0/0
Penalties/yards 8/70 10/90
RUSHING — (K) Shane Robinson 19-202, Kyle Smith 9-25, Carl Walter 5-12, Mike Herb 2-13, Joshua Jewett 1-9, Thomas Smith 1-3, Casey Gawen 1-0. (M) Brock Schafer 14-81, Brian Sparks 4-4.
PASSING — (K) Mike Herb 6-11-83-1-0. (M) Troyer Brian Ringholz 15-27-1-5.
RECEIVING — (K) Nicholas Wilmoth 2-39, Matt Herb 1-16, Tyler Minnich 1-15, Shane Robinson 2-13. (M) Jake Schwab 5-101, Nick O’Neil 4-92, Brian Sparks 1-30, Jake Spettle 2-6, Justin Kerner 2-5, Brock Schafer 1-4.