Oak Forest comes back to beat Rich Central
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org September 1, 2012 12:02AM
Oak Forest quarterback Tom Zale (7) pitches to Tyler Usterbowski during a September game against Rich Central. The Bengals begin the state football playoffs this weekend. | File photo
Updated: October 3, 2012 6:18AM
They were the worst of reasons that Nick Ciufia and Ben Santiago had chances to be heroes for Oak Forest in Friday night’s battle at home against Rich Central.
But even starting quarterback Tom Zale, while standing on crutches, had to smile as he watched the duo lead the Bengals to a 28-7 victory.
“That’s what I like to see,” Zale said while Ciufia scored two touchdowns and Santiago one as Oak Forest (2-0) erased a 7-6 halftime deficit.
After a fumble recovery by the Bengals’ Rondell Saddler deep in Rich Central territory, Ciufia scored on a 4-yard run and threw a 2-point pass to Kyle Hullinger with 4:27 left in the third period. He followed with another 9-yard keeper for a score.
It all happened after Zale (11 carries, 128 yards) reinjured his right ankle on a running play during the Bengals’ first possession of the second half.
“I had confidence and I knew I had to step up, take charge,” said Ciufia, who was the starting quarterback last season on the sophomore squad but switched to wide receiver as a junior. “I called things I saw on the line and just executed. I’m pretty happy right now.”
Santiago, a backup running back, also had to pinch hit when starter Matt Barry — on the same drive on which Zale was injured — took three consecutive vicious hits and had to come out of the game.
One of his rushes, for 49 yards, set up Ciufia’s second TD. Santiago’s own score, on an 8-yard run with 1:55 left to play, ended any possible late drama.
“It felt good. I’m trying to help the team anyway possible,” Santiago said. “Unfortunately, that had to happen for me to get in, but I’m glad I got in.”
Zale’s 65-yard run with 4:36 left in the second period gave the Bengals a 6-0 lead. But Rich Central answered in the closing seconds of the half with a 38-yard pass play from Jeremiah Mitchell (8-of-25, 175 yards) to Arthur Sutton and a PAT kick by Bertrand Chi.
The Olympians (1-1) had two earlier would-be touchdowns erased by penalties.