CRYSTAL CITY — Nate Ruble knew when to pick his moments.
The St. Pius X junior running back exploded for two 79-yard touchdowns late in the second quarter as the Lancers broke open a tight contest to defeat Grandview 41-16 on Friday at St. Pius.
Ruble’s first explosive play happened after a fumbled pitch and a sack placed St. Pius in a precarious 3rd-and-39 situation. The Lancers spread the field with receivers and quarterback Collin Smith dropped back to pass, then handed the ball to Ruble with room to maneuver.
“It was a delayed handoff, I took it up the middle and Trace Jones had a beautiful block on the safety,” Ruble said. “I cut back and had open field ahead.”
The play opened up a 19-0 lead for the Lancers, but it was a short-lived.
Grandview, which scored at least 29 points in the first half of its previous two games, finally broke through when junior Chase Wilson capped a 6-play, 65-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
The score made it 19-8 with just over a minute to play in the half, but Ruble still had some magic left. He lined up in the slot, ran a wheel route and received a perfect spiral down the right sideline from Smith for his second 79-yard touchdown play in less than three minutes to put the Lancers ahead 27-9 at the half.
“It was a beautiful route. Our receiver slanted in and brought everyone inside and Nate has that next level speed,” Smith said. “I just had to put it in his area and he did the rest.”
Grandview (2-1) won its first two games of the season by at least 30 points with a deceptive and powerful triple-option rushing attack that made it difficult to find the ball carrier. The deception was so well-orchestrated that a 40-yard carry by quarterback Jacob Brand on the opening drive was negated when the officials blew the play dead thinking the ball carrier had already been tackled.
That opening drive lasted 12 plays and over seven minutes, but it ended on a fumbled exchange deep in St. Pius territory. The next three Grandview drives would yield only five total yards as St. Pius began to sniff out the ball carrier.
“We had fresh legs and took it to them, but we had the inadvertent whistle and then the big turnover,” said Grandview assistant coach Steve Nausley, who served as head coach in the absence of David Dallas. “When you have a squad that is not used to winning and adversity happens, we’re trying to teach them to overcome that.”
St. Pius (2-1) opened the scoring with its own smoke and mirrors. Smith rolled out in what looked to be a quarterback sweep, but after pretending to block, wide receiver Chase Marnin escaped in the secondary and Smith hit him on a 49-yard touchdown strike down the right sideline.
“We wanted to stay on the ground because that is our bread and butter, but we thought if we’re going to air it out, let’s air it out,” said Smith, who went 8-for-16 for 183 yards.
After another Grandview fumbled exchange gave St. Pius the ball in excellent field position, Smith used his legs, calling his own number on a quarterback draw. He broke several tackles and emerged out of a pack of bodies for the first of his two touchdown runs, a 15-yard scamper to push the lead to 13-0.
Ruble took over from there.
The Lancers imposed their will on both sides of the ball in the second half. Michael Bollinger churned up 86 yards and scored a touchdown and the defense surrendered only 214 total yards - 72 on the final drive of the game when the outcome had already been determined.
“All week we prepared for their triple option. Every defensive player had an assignment and we’ve been drilling on who has the quarterback, who has the running back and who has the pitch man,” said Ruble, who is also second on the team in tackles.
The triumph marked the seventh consecutive win for St. Pius over Grandview. In the middle of last season, the Lancers went on a seven-game winning streak and Ruble feels the team is ready to make a similar run this year.
“We played a good game tonight and we’ve got good momentum going into next week,” Ruble said.
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