Linton has long aspired to play at Lucas Oil Stadium — in November … in an IHSAA state championship game. The Miners looked every bid a contender to do that 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 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 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 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 team 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,” said West Vigo coach Jeff Cobb after the Vikings’ second game of the season against a ranked opponent.
Cobb did not think the Vikings were nervous about playing in the home of the NFL’s 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 Dane Rupska brought back memories of record-setting signal caller Austin Karazsia. Rupska was 10-for-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 had 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 when 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 9-yard gain. But on third-and-10, Linton’s Zane Hayden picked off a West Vigo pass, and two snaps later Rupska scored on a 3-yard run to give Linton an 18-0 lead.
Linton’s defense held West Vigo to just 92 yards rushing and had Maples scrambling and throwing under pressure all night. That is why Maples was intercepted four times.
The Miners 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 Eaton for an 18-yard pickup. It appeared Austin Hale scored for Linton, but he was ruled down at the 1-yard line. Rupska scored on the next play; Jay Khangura kicked the point after.
West Vigo put together an 11-play drive with Maples running for 10 yards and finding Hunter Voils for a 20-yard pass play. But on fourth-and-10 from the Linton 35, Maples was sacked for an 8-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 then 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. Tyler Gustafson returned a fumble 12 yards for 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), 10:48 1st
L — Grant Stamm 32 pass from Rupska (kick failed), 8:26 1st
L — Rupska 3 run (pass failed), 5:00 1st
L — Rupska 1 run (Jay Khangura kick), 8:36 2nd
L — Rupska 49 run (kick blocked), 2:46 2nd
L — Austin Hale 14 pass from Rupska (Khangura kick), 8:36 3rd
L — Indiana Miller fumble recovery (Khangura kick), 3:02 3rd
WV — Tyler Gustafson 12 fumble return (Brady Cole kick), 10:22 4th
WV — Daniel McClain 13 pass from Jimmy Maples (Cole kick), 6:07 4th
First downs 18 9
Rushes-yards 39-233 32-92
Passing yards 172 71
Comp-Att-Int 10-16-2 7-21-4
Punts-avg 0 3-34.3
Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-1
Penalties-yards 7-67 4-50
Rushing: Linton — Rupska 10-76, Hale 8-55, Mitch Eberhardt 6-40, Zane Hayden 5-25, Mason 3-11, Forceca 2-4, Lawson 1-16, Cox 1-9, Trent 3-(minus 3). WV — Hunter Voils 5-53, Skyler Warnock 8-9, Dakota Short 3-9, Sam Switzer 1-22, Joe Creasey 1-10, Jordan Easter 1-3, Corey Vicars 1-3, Team 1-(minus 6), Maples 11-(minus 11).
Passing: Linton — Rupska 10-16-2, 172, yards. WV — Maples 7-18-4, 71; Creasey 0-3-0, 0.
Receiving: Linton — Stamm 4-77, Eaton 3-75, Vowell 2-6, Hale 1-14. WV — Voils 2-25, Short 2-24, D.McClain 2-22, Burke 1-0.
Next — West Vigo (0-4) hosts South Vermillion and Linton (4-0) plays at Springs Valley on Friday.
• Brown County 42, South Vermillion 13 — In the Classic’s third game in Lucas Oil Stadium, the Eagles exploded for 28 points the second half and rolled up 441 yards of total offense.
Brown County scored first on Dillon Boknecht’s 8-yard run, and the Eagles added a 2-point conversion.
South Vermillion quarterback Jordan Branz scored on an 8-yard run, but the 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Wildcats in an 8-6 hole.
Brown County widened the lead on a 36-yard pass play from Boknecht to Luke Huls with 1:02 left in the second quarter, then scored on its first possession of the second half. When South Vermillion fumbled, the Eagles recovered and immediately scored again.
Branz led South Vermillion with 101 rushing yards and one touchdown. The junior completed 5 of 7 passes for 93 yards.
Brown County 42,
South Vermillion 13
Brown County 0 14 14 14 — 42
South Vermillion 0 6 0 7 — 13
BC — Dillon Boknecht 8 run (Chase Snider run), 9:47 2nd
SV — Jordan Branz 8 run (run failed), 3:36 2nd
BC — Luke Huls 36 pass from Boknecht (kick blocked), 1:02 2nd
BC — Billy Pruitt 2 run (Stephen Kakavecous kick), 5:13 3rd
BC — Cody Leeper 3 run (Kakavecous kick), 0:10 3rd
BC — Snider 30 run (Kakavecous kick), 11:53 4th
SV — Branz 19 run (Daniel Shew kick), 7:00 4th
BC — Tyler Fox 13 run (Kakavecous kick), 1:51 4th
First downs 22 10
Rushes-yards 43-268 35-134
Passing yards 173 93
Comp-Att-Int 10-15-0 5-8-2
Return yards 20 41
Punts-avg 0 1-43.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 4-3
Penalties-yards 8-65 10-68
Rushing: BC — Leeper 9-82, Snider 5-53, Fox 2-58, Pruitt 10-40, Boknecht 6-22, Landry 3-3, Walsh 3-1, Redmond 2-7, Palmer 1-2, Buttz 1-0, Anderson 1-0. SV — Branz 17-101, Crouch 11-17, Dunegan 2-5, Waldrop 1-6, Smith 1-2, Kelly 1-3, Thornton 1-0, Wilson 1-0.
Passing: BC — Boknecht 10-15-0, 173 yards. SV — Branz 5-7-1, 93; Rosnett 0-1-1, 0.
Receiving: BC — Huls 3-88, Cade 3-44, Snider 2-23, Walsh 1-16, Leeper 1-2. SV — Spivey 2-49, Dunegan 2-18, Crouch 1-25.
Next — South Vermillion (1-3, 0-2 WIC) plays at West Vigo and Brown County (3-1, 2-1) hosts Indian Creek on Friday.