Laurel Highlands rallies to defeat Ringgold on Rams’ homecoming

Friday, September 17, 2021 | 10:09 PM

Sometimes football is an unfair game, and sometimes it will frustrate you and bite you.

For Ringgold, that was the story Friday night.

The Rams dominated the yardage and time of possession, carrying out their gameplan of keeping the ball out of the Laurel Highlands playmakers’ hands.

Landon Oslowski was chugging his way through the LH defense, but it was his fumble with 4 minutes, 58 seconds remaining that proved critical.

The turnover led to Rodney Gallagher’s second rushing touchdown of the night with 3:14 to go to carry Laurel Highlands to a 32-29 come-from-behind win over the Rams on homecoming night at Ringgold’s Joe Montana Stadium.

“My heart breaks for those kids,” Ringgold coach Darwin Manges said. “My heart breaks for Landon. What can you say to him? He had a fantastic game. Unfortunately, things like that are part of this game. It hurts right now.”

Gallagher, to no one’s surprise starred again for the Mustangs (4-0, 1-0 Big Eight).

With his team trailing 13-0, it was his 89-yard punt return that got his team on the board.

He completed 11 of 16 passes for 147 yards, threw a touchdown and ran for a pair.

“We have so much skill all over the field, and we trust all those guys,” LH coach Rich Kolesar said. “They’re special players.”

Ringgold got on the board first, taking control with great field position Quarterback Deondre Dotson found Donte Kinds for a jump-ball touchdown pass from 24 yards on the opening drive of the game.

After an LH punt, the Rams hit paydirt again, this time with Oslowski scoring on a 4-yard run.

“We never quit after getting behind early,” Kolesar said. “That’s a testament to these players.”

Gallagher’s punt return came with 1:48 left in the first quarter. The Mustangs defense held the Rams but couldn’t capitalize after Gallagher threw an interception. Dotson returned it down to the LH 20, leading to an Oslowski 6-yard run four plays later.

Oslowski was the driving force for the Rams offense throughout the night, finishing with 158 yards on 28 carries.

“The kid ran his butt off,” Manges said. “Losing Braydon Fine in the first quarter really hurt. We didn’t have that three-headed monster back there, so they were keying in on us a bit.”

Laurel Highlands got back to within one score just before the half when Gallagher rolled right and hit Keondre Deshields, who made a circus catch along the sideline for a 9-yard strike.

“Our athleticism on the outside is tough,” Kolesar said. “We can go so many different directions with it.”

Said Manges: “I don’t know about that one. It was a tough call. But we shook it off and kept up the pressure on their defense.”

Harry Radcliffe hit a 27-yard field goal to complete a 11-play, 66-yard drive on the Mustangs’ first possession of the third quarter.

Manges’ Rams (2-2, 0-1) answered back, chewing nearly 8 minutes off the clock with a 14-play, 84-yard jaunt through the LH defense.

John Polefko capped it off with a 3-yard run. Oslowski’s 2-point conversion made it 29-17.

The Mustangs got a big play on a 48-yard completion from Gallagher to Joe Chambers on the first play of the ensuing drive. Three plays later, Gallagher scored his first rushing touchdown from 6 yards.

On the Rams’ next possession, they seemed destined to run out the clock, but LH safety Jayden Pratt stripped Oslowski and made his own recovery.

Six plays later, Gallagher dove in, giving his team the lead for the first time.

“It feels amazing, and the pride and the excitement is showing around this program,” Kolesar said. “Like they’ve been saying, these aren’t your father’s Mustangs.”

For the Rams, it’s back to the grind for a nonconference matchup at Uniontown next week.

“My heart aches for these kids,” Manges said. “This is what we’ve been building to, and we dominated this game. Two big plays and a turnover. It’s part of the game, but they’ll kill you.”

Listen to an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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