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Indiana earns first playoff win, 400th overall

Posted Monday, November 03, 2008 by Ed Dalton

Indiana earns first playoff win, 400th overall

Indiana notched its 400th win Friday night against Trinity.


By MATTHEW BURGLUND, mburglund@indianagazette.net
Published: Sunday, November 2, 2008 3:20 AM EST
There have been some big wins through the years for the Indiana High football program.

But really, none can match this.

On a big night, the Indians came up with a big win.

Jay Pettina rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown, and Ben Fiscus scored two others as Indiana ousted Trinity, 21-6, in a WPIAL Class AAA playoff game at Fifth Street Stadium.

Pettina wiped the sweat from his brow and tried to put it all into perspective. As hard as he tried, Pettina couldn't hide the excitement of being the star of the show the night Indiana captured its 400th win in program history and first-ever playoff victory.

``Oh man, I don't even know what to say right now,'' said Pettina. ``It's incredible. This is what we've been working for since the day after our last game last year.''

A few yards away, two of his teammates, Dale Anderson and Tyler Pollock, tried in vain to douse head coach Mark Zilinskas with ice water, a tradition seldom seen by a program that seems to have emerged from a losing funk and become a consistent winner.

``They're not sneaky enough,'' a beaming Zilinskas said of Anderson and Pollock. ``This is a great win for the program; it's a great win for the town. People are excited about football here.''

Friday's win should only further the excitement about a program that has won 14 of its last 19 games.

The Indians will take on New Castle in the second round. In Week 2, Indiana beat New Castle, 27-19, in a non-conference game.

Against Trinity, Indiana used an efficient offense to complement its ``Big Red Nasty'' defense, which stumped the Hillers all night - especially in the red zone. Trinity moved the ball inside the Indiana 20-yard line five times and came away with only six points.

``We've always been concerned about people jamming it down our throats,'' Zilinskas said. ``I don't think teams think they can do that anymore. If there was a team that could, it was going to be Trinity. They outweigh us up front and they have big backs. But our guys played with tremendous heart and effort.''

Linebacker Howie Lambing spearheaded a defense that gave up only 77 rushing yards and came up with three turnovers, in addition to a first-quarter goal-line stand that set the tone for the night.

``Like Coach says, if we play like 77 crazy guys, they can't hold us back,'' said Lambing, who recorded a game-high 12 tackles.

The Hillers' first possession ended with a signature goal-line stand by Indiana that brought the crowd to its feet for the first of many times. Trinity had first-and-goal at the Indiana 10, but four consecutive rushing plays couldn't break the goal line.

``We couldn't finish,'' said Trinity coach Ed Dalton. ``We didn't run as effectively as we thought we could.''

Fiscus and Anderson teamed up to bring down the Hillers' Dan Miller on the drive's final play.

``That's just our `Big Red Nasty' toughening up on them,'' said Lambing. ``The first drive is always the biggest drive of the game. We knew that if we stop them there, it takes away their momentum.''

Did it ever.

Indiana's offense sputtered at the start, but once Fiscus got things going, Trinity couldn't slow down an offense that rolled up 342 total yards.

Fiscus scored the first two touchdowns, on 1-yard dives in the second quarter, to stake the Indians to a 14-0 lead. The first came after Trinity tried a quick kick on third down at the Hillers' 6, but punter Larry Woods slipped as he was trying to kick the ball and whiffed at it. Jordan Kucinski pounced on the ball to set up the Indians for a score.

``If we get out of a jam, it's a good idea,'' Dalton said of the play call. ``But he fell down, so it wasn't a very good idea.''

The Hillers got on the board at the end of the second quarter, on Mike Preston's 4-yard run, but that was the only time they could get near the end zone and have a breakthrough. Fiscus and Pettina grabbed red-zone interceptions, and another possession ended with a missed field goal.

``I think we're more comfortable in the red zone, I swear,'' Pettina said. ``I don't know. We let them get down there for some reason - motivation, maybe. But we know when we get down there that we're going to make a stop.''

Once it was clear that Indiana's defense wasn't going to give ground, its offense took over.

Trinity tried to take Fiscus out of the equation on the option run, so Zilinskas used the passing game to spread the field. Senior wide receiver Tyler Rinehart totaled a season-high five catches for 101 yards, giving the Hillers something else to worry about.

``I think you can stop all three phases of the option,'' Dalton said, ``but what (Zilinskas) did today was he went to the short passing game to try to create width in our defense. We've played enough options that we don't really panic when we play the option, but they did some good things to create space for his kids.''

With open rushing lanes created, Pettina became the focal point. The 180-pound senior fullback bulldozed his way through the Trinity secondary and helped Indiana gain a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.

``Bennie, last week, had an awesome game,'' Pettina said of Fiscus' 225-yard, four-touchdown effort in a 41-17 win over Franklin Regional. ``Today, they were keying on him. I just took the ball and did what I could do.''``That's the design of the offense - when they stop one, we have one to counter with,'' Zilinskas said. ``Jay just had a field day running inside the tackles.''

Pettina's 1-yard run in the fourth quarter essentially put the game away. The only thing left from there was for Fiscus to take a knee and send Indiana into the second round, a place the Indians have never been.

``Making it to the second round and winning No. 400 is the biggest thing to ever happen to us,'' Lambing said.



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