John Bruce, Contributor
LONDONERRY — Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but Lane Ruby is unbelievably good at football.
But while he was outstanding, per usual Friday night, it may have been the Southeastern’s line play that was the difference in Southeastern’s 28-21 come-from-behind win over Unioto in Week 8.
After Unioto (4-4, 2-3 SVC) forced an early turnover in the third quarter and turned it into a 21-6 advantage, the Panthers (8-0, 5-0 SVC) were able to make some adjustments to quell the Shermans’ running attack.
“We went back into the locker room and we focused on us. Not blitzing as much and staying in our gaps,” Southeastern head coach Evan Gallaugher said. “Our linebackers were able to flow a little bit more and read. Letting those guys just go out and play football and letting them be athletes.”
Another key for Southeastern would be getting the ball in Ruby’s hands a little bit more. The senior do-it-all quarterback had rushed five times for 25 yards in the first half. But he rushed 15 times for 181 yards in the second half alone.
Following the Shermans’ touchdown to go ahead 21-6, Ruby scored from 48 yards out and then ran in for a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 21-14.
Havoc would begin to surface late in the third, following a punt from Ruby.
The Shermans fumbled the return, which was recovered by the Panthers with under a minute left in the third. The Tanks have struggled with the return game after an injury in week 1 to senior Colson Miller.
Unioto appeared to get a stop on a 4th down pass with some excellent coverage downfield, however, a late flag came in for defensive pass interference, giving the Panthers extra life. Two plays later, Ruby scored from 10 yards out. The senior would land on his blocker, spin back to his feet and lay out to score with 9:29 to play. The two-point try would be stopped by the Shermans, keeping a 21-20 lead intact.
Following a three-and-out from Unioto’s offense, Ruby would put his final stamp on the game.
At his own 41, Ruby scampered around the left end and outran a defensive back who was unable to get him out of bounds. Next, he slipped out of another tackle down the sideline and, eventually, ended up in the end zone, giving the Panthers their first lead of the night.
After Jarrett McWhorter ran in the two-point try in, the Panthers had a 28-21 lead.
Unioto had one more possession, but a fumble following a long run gave the Panthers the ball back with 5:09 to play.
While the Shermans still had three timeouts remaining, the combination of Ruby and junior Mikey Nusser, along with an outstanding offensive line, ran out the remainder of the clock to seal the win on Senior Night.
“Whenever you can go out on a Senior Night and go out with a win is a good win,” Gallaugher said. “Any win is a good win in my opinion, but anytime you can do that for those guys is great. Something we haven’t talked about a lot is Ike Diehl. Ike is a senior who is a three-year starter for us, but in our first scrimmage, he tears his ACL. A lot of kids would have crumbled in that situation, but Ike’s been here every day, he’s another assistant coach. Just seeing him dressed tonight and walking across the field with his parents was special. He has a special place in my heart.”
Ruby ended the night with 206 yards rushing on 20 carries. He scored three touchdowns and threw a touchdown to McWhorter for the Panthers’ first score.
“The line did tremendous,” an excited Ruby said following the win. “[Unioto] had some big boys up front and moving them made it feel like every other game. They play their butts off every game. They got us open holes, the backs blocked, everyone contributed tonight.”
Unioto was led on the ground by Isaac Little with 90 yards on 15 carries, while Little also was 7-for-11 passing for 111 yards and a touchdown. Jamarcus Carroll ran 19 times for 73 yards and two touchdowns, and also caught two passes for 46 yards.
Southeastern now travels to Paint Valley in Week 9 for a de facto SVC championship game between the undefeated squads. Unioto hosts Westfall on its own Senior Night.