INDIANAPOLIS — Linton has long aspired to play at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Only in November in the IHSAA state championship game.
The Miners looked every bid a contender to do that late Saturday night in a 45-14 victory over West Vigo in the final game of the Western Indiana Conference Classic at Lucas Oil.
Linton, ranked No. 1 in Class A, hit West Vigo with a brutal defense and a surprisingly balanced offense to move to move to remain undefeated on the season.
“The kids were fired up to come up here to play in one of the best venues in the nation and coming out here wanting to put on a show,” first-year Linton coach Brian Oliver said.
Everything went wrong for West Vigo (0-4) from the start. The Vikings turned the ball over twice in the opening quarter, four times in the first half and five times for the entire game. West Vigo managed just 163 yards of total offense in the contest and was down 45-0 before scoring two touchdowns in the closing minutes.
“It was a nightmare start and you can’t play the No. 1 [ranked] team [in Class A] and start out the way we started. Self-inflicted wounds and that’s what we’ve got going right now. We’re our own worst enemy and that’s the frustrating thing for us,” West Vigo coach Jeff Cobb after the Vikings’ second game of the season against a ranked opponent.
No, Cobb did not think the Vikings were nervous about playing in the home of the NFL Indianapolis Colts.
“If anything it should improve your game. I thought a lot of our young guys played well. We had some big plays by some young kids, which is encouraging when they come to Lucas [Oil Stadium] and play that well,” Cobb said.
Linton quarterback Dan Rupska brought back memories of record-setting signal caller Austin Karazsia, who graduated. Rupska was 10-of-16 passing with two interceptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for three touchdowns.
“If people stack the box on us, we’ve got good enough receivers where we can throw the ball. If [defenses] put everybody in the middle we’re going to throw over the top. That’s what [ West Vigo ] was doing in the first half so we were able to get some big plays there,” Oliver said.
In less than half a 12-minute quarter, Linton had a 12-0 lead on West Vigo – and the Miners kicked off to the Vikings.
Linton forced West Vigo into a three-and-out series to open the game then scored on the first play from scrimmage. Rupska hooked up with Beau Eaton for a 51-yard touchdown over the middle of the field.
As soon as West Vigo got the ball back, Linton took it away. Mitch Eberhardt intercepted a Viking pass. Six plays later Rupska found Grant Stamm for a 32-yard touchdown play and with 8:26 left in the opening quarter the Miners were up 12-0.
West Vigo put together its first series of plays with Skyler Warnock running the ball and quarterback Jimmy Maples finding Daniel McClain for a nine-yard gain.
But on third and 10, Linton’s Zane Hayden picked off a West Vigo pass, and two snaps later the Miners scored again. Rupska scored on a three-yard run to give Linton an 18-0 lead.
Linton’s defense held West Vigo to just 92 yards rush and had West Vigo ’s Maples scrambling and throwing under pressure all night. That is why Maples was intercepted four times.
The Miners led 18-0 going into the second quarter and made it 25-0 with 8:36 left in the half.
Eberhardt ran 21 yards to the West Vigo 35-yard line and Rupska found Easton for an 18-yard pick up. It appeared Austin Hale scored for Linton, but was ruled down at the 1-yard line. Rupska scored on the next play and Jay Khangura kicked the point after for a 25-0 Linton lead.
West Vigo put together an 11-play drive with Maples running for 10 yards, finding Hunter Voils for a 20-yard pass play and a three-yard gain by Dakota Scott.
But on 4th-and-10 from the Linton 35, West Vigo’s Maples was sacked for an eight-yard loss by Rupska.
Two plays later Rupska ran straight up the middle of the field for a 49-yard touchdown and a 31-0 lead.
Linton accepted the opening kickoff of the second half and Rupska found Hale again for a 14-yard touchdown.
West Vigo put two scores on the board in the fourth quarter when Linton fumbled twice.
West Vigo’s Tyler Gustafson returned a fumble 12 yards of the Vikings’ first touchdown with 10:22 to play and Daniel McClain caught a 13-yard pass from Maples with 6:07 to play.
Linton 45, West Vigo 14
Linton 18 13 14 0 45
West Vigo 0 0 0 14 14
L – Beau Eaton 51 pass from Dane Rupska (kick failed), 6-0, 10:48 1Q.
L – Grant Stamm 32 pass from Rupska (run failed), 12-0, 8:26 1Q.
L – Rupska 3 run (pass failed), 18-0, 5:00 1Q.
L – Rupska 1 run (Jay Khangura kick), 25-0, 8:36 2Q.
L – Rupska 49 run (kick blocked by Dakota Scott) 31-0, 2:46 2Q.
L – Austin Hale 14 pass from Rupska (Khangura kick) 38-0, 8:36 3Q.
L – Indiana Miller recover fumble (Khangura kick) 45-0, 3:02 3Q.
WV – Tyler Gustafson 12 fumble return (Brady Cole kick) 45-7, 10:22 4Q.
WV – Daniel McClain 13 pass from Jimmy Maples (Cole kick) 45-14, 6:07 4Q.
First downs 18 9
Rushes-yards 39-233 32-92
Passing yards 172 71
Comp-Att-Int 10-16-2 7-21-4
Total offense 55-405 53-163
Punts-Avg 0-0 3-34.3
Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-1
Penalties-yards 7-67 4-50
Rushing – Linton: Rupska 10-76, Hale 8-55, Eberhardt 6-40, Hayden 5-25, Mason 3-11, Forceca 2-4, Lawson 1-16, Cox 1-9, Trent 3-(-3). West Vigo: Voils 5-53, Warnock 8-9, Short 3-9, Switzer 1-22, Creasey 1-10, Easter 1-3, Vicars 1-3, West Vigo 1-(-6).
Passing – Linton: Rupska 10-16-2--172. West Vigo : Maples 7-18-4—71; Creasey 0-3-0--0.
Receiving – Linton: Stamm 4-77, Easton 3-75, Vowell 16, Hale 1-14. West Vigo : Voils 2-25, Short 2-24, McClain 2-22, Burke 1-0.
Next – On Friday, South Vermillion (1-3, 0-2 in WIC) plays at West Vigo (0-4, 0-1 in WIC) and Linton (4-0) travels to Springs Valley (1-3).