LINTON — Linton intercepted four passes and scored 33 second half points Friday night to beat Fountain Central 47-28 and claim its third straight regional championship.
“I know you’re happy, but are you satisfied?” one Linton observer asked the Miners in the post-game celebration at Field.
“No!” the Miners barked in unison.
The 13-0 Miners travels to Eastern Hancock next week with their season-long goal on the line in the Class A semistate.
“[The goal] is to win 15. That’s the state championship,” Zane Hayden said after rushing for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Hayden also had one of Linton’s four interceptions.
Linton didn’t play a perfect game, but the Miners played an all-around game. Led by Hayden and a dominant offensive line, the Miners rushed for 360 yards, and quarterback Beau Eaton completed 8 of 16 passes with one interception for 141 yards and one touchdown.
The Miners needed all of those yards, too. Fountain Central (11-2) rolled up 469 yards with quarterback Koby Pierce completing 19-of-29 passes with four interceptions for 321 yards and two interceptions. Pierce’s primary target was Trevor Loveall who caught 10 passes for 200 yards, including two touchdowns.
“[The interceptions were] the key. They’re a passing team and that number 15 [Pierce] is a heck of a quarterback and to step up, we had [four] picks,” Hayden said.
Linton coach Brian Oliver said the Miners could have played better, but the Miners made the big plays.
“We played really well tonight. We had some mistakes out there, we gave up some big plays, but when you play a team like Fountain Central has it’s going to happen from time to time,” Oliver said.
Linton took control of this game in the late going of the first half and opening minutes of the second.
With the score tied 7-7, Linton’s Cody Van Winkle sacked Pierce for a five-yard loss on third down. The Mustangs tried a fourth down pass, but it fell incomplete and the Miners took possession with 1:23 left in the half.
Linton marched 83 yards on four big plays for the go-ahead touchdown in a minute. Eaton ran for 14 yards on the first play. He scrambled away from the twice before launching a pass to Hayden for 31 yard on the second play. Eaton went back to Hayden again for 26 yards on the third play. Hayden capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run that put Linton ahead 14-7 at halftime.
“Big momentum swing. It gave us the lead and then coming out at the beginning of the third quarter forcing that turnover and capitalizing on that. That was huge for us. That gave us all the momentum and that helped with those couple of touchdowns they ended up scoring late in the fourth quarter,” Oliver said.
Linton kicked off to Fountain Central to open the second half, but on the third play, Van Winkle came up with the Miners’ third interception of the game.
In just four plays – a 17-yard run by Mitch Eberhardt, an incomplete pass, a 27-yard cutback run by Hayden and an 11-yard touchdown run by Eaton – the Miners led 21-7.
Linton’s Austin Hale recovered a Fountain Central fumble three plays later and the Miners scored again. Eaton found Eberhardt for a 34-yard touchdown play.
The Mustangs scored their second touchdown of the game late in the third period, but the Miners led 28-14 going into the fourth quarter.
“Once again we bent but we never broke. I’m proud of the way they played tonight,” Oliver said.
Linton and Fountain Central traded long drives, interceptions and touchdowns through the first quarter and a half.
Fountain Central stopped Linton’s opening possession on three plays and out, the put together a six-play, 60-yard touchdown drive Jared Fishero put the Mustangs up 7-0 on a 10-yard run.
Linton came right back with a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive. Eaton ran 25 yards on the first play from scrimmage and the Miners kept the ball on the ground. Hale ran eight yards for the game tying touchdown with 4:22 left in the first quarter.
But when the Miners scored the final touchdown of the first half and the first TD of the second, the game was over.
“Win 15 has been our goal since day one of summer workouts. We’ve always been stuck at winning 13 and losing at semistate. We hope to come out next week and really [win],” Van Winkle said.
Fountain Central 7 0 7 14 – 28
Linton 7 7 14 19 – 47
FC – Jared Fishero 10 run (Cristian Viveros kick) 8:22 1Q.
L – Austin Hale 8 run (Michael Thompson kick) 4:22 1Q.
L – Zane Hayden 22 run (Thompson kick) :28 2Q.
L – Beau Eaton 11 run (Thompson kick) 10:18 3Q.
L – Mitch Eberhardt 34 pass from Eaton (Thompson kick) 8:38 3Q.
FC – Fishero 3 run (Viveros kick) 3:26 3Q.
L – Eberhardt 23 run (Thompson kick) 11:08 4Q.
FC – Trevor Loveall 43 pass from Koby Pierce (Viveros kick) 10:23 4Q.
L – Hale 5 run (kick failed) 6:53 4Q.
FC – Loveall 10 pass from Pierce (Viveros kick) 4:08 4Q.
L – Hale 23 run (kick failed) 1:33 4Q.
First downs 21 23
Rushes-yards 31-148 52-360
Passing yards 321 141
Comp-Att-Int 19-27-4 8-16-1
Total offense 58-469 68-501
Return yards 108 53
Punts-Avg. 0-0 1-36.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 3-15 7-80
Rushing – Fountain Central: Strange 5-48, Pierce 9-44, Fishero 10-21, Harrison 7-35. Linton: Hayden 12-128, Eb erhardt 13-94, Eaton 10-84, Hale 13-42, Rupska 3-13, Cox 1-(-1).
Passing – Fountain Central: Pierce 19-27-4--321. Linton: Eaton 8-16-1--141.
Receiving – Fountain Central: Loveall 10-200, Woodrow 4-61, Fishero 3-20, Oakley 2-40. Linton: Hayden 4-64, Eberhardt 2-37, Clothier 1-30, Goodman 1-10.
Next – Linton (13-0) travels to Eastern Hancock next Friday for the Class A semistate.