MONONGAHELA – Quarterback Jax Banco wasn’t even listed on the Trinity roster, yet found himself thrust into the middle of the Trinity offense, a unit searching for answers after being blanked a week ago and scoring just 13 points in the opener.
It seems the Hillers found some answers, at least Friday night against Ringgold.
Using a combination of the wildcat and misdirection, Banco and three different running backs found all kinds of space against the Rams, rushing for 252 yards and Trinity rolled to a 35-7 victory over Ringgold at Joe Montana Stadium in a Class 4A Big Eight Conference game.
It was Banco’s first game at quarterback at any level, and he wasn’t taking any credit for the win.
“I think it’s more about us, that we came together for a big win tonight,” said Banco, a senior baseball player who tried out for the football team a couple weeks ago. “My brother got hurt, and in my heart I wanted to go play for him. I didn’t care where I played. I just happened to get the job.”
Much of the credit for the result also goes to the Trinity linemen, who both opened up plenty of holes on offense and put constant pressure on Ringgold quarterback Jacob Duncan, who was sacked six times in the first half. The Rams also couldn’t find running lanes of any kind, thanks in large part to Tyson Brophy and the rest of the Hillers’ defensive line.
That wasn’t the case for Trinity (1-2, 1-2), which hit on a 42-yard run right up the gut by Peyton Thompson on the Hillers’ third play from scrimmage. But it was actually the passing game that put the first points on the scoreboard for Trinity as Banco lofted a pass that a defender overran, and the ball fell into the waiting arms of Marquese Lacks for a 21-yard score.
“My first game, I was a little shaky, but I did OK back there,” said Banco, who completed just the one pass out of four attempts but ran for 32 yards on four attempts. “I just want to thank my offensive line, and I really appreciate them for blocking for me tonight.”
Ringgold (0-3, 0-4) struggled in many facets of the game, and one of those was special teams, particularly the punting game. Poor snaps put Clayton Rosensteel under constant pressure and resulted in several short punts, giving Trinity good field position.
Starting the next two drives at their own 43 and the Rams’ 36, Trinity quickly pulled out to a 20-0 lead, scoring on runs by Drew Cain (12 yards) and Banco (13 yards.)
“They blew us off the ball, period, both sides,” said Ringgold coach Darwin Manges. “We did not meet force with force.”
Unfortunately for the Rams, nothing went their way. A brief change of momentum occurred when an 80-yard touchdown run by Cain was called back on a holding penalty and Trinity fumbled on the next play, giving Ringgold the ball at the Hillers’ 10.
The Rams ran to the 2-yard line but then went backward, and a 45-yard field goal attempt was blocked. Following that, Cain ripped off a 35-yard run, and the drive was eventually capped off by a Thompson 1-yard touchdown run for a 27-0 halftime lead.
“It seemed we’d take a couple steps forward and several back,” said Manges. “This is a work in progress right here. We’re all in on this.”
Cain got into the passing game himself in the third quarter, throwing a halfback-option pass to Tysean Lacks. Cain ran for a game-high 108 yards on 14 carries. Thompson finished with 57 yards on just five attempts and Micah Finley had 55 yards on seven carries.
“It’s nice to get everyone playing, and it was a great team victory,” said Hillers coach Jon Miller. “It was a great team win. This offense is kind of what we want to do, so this is more of who we were going to be, and it was nice to get out there and actually do it.”