MOROCCO | Malachi Sala may have been lined up in a different position for River Forest on Friday night but the casual fan would never know the difference.
Sala – usually the starting running back – was under center on Friday because the Ingots were without usual starter Brandon Laas. With the junior running the show, the River Forest offense was less run-and-gun and more run-and-run. Sala ran 23 times for 192 yards and four touchdowns as River Forest won 27-12.
“He’s always been our backup quarterback and we didn’t actually know that we would be without (Laas) until last night,” Ingots head coach Jeff Bean said. “What can I say about Sala? He just came in an handled adversity. He played his butt off.”
Sala ran for his second touchdown of the game with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter, rushing straight up the middle from 10 yards out. A two-point conversion try was stopped short, but the Ingots took a 13-12 lead.
North Newton appeared to have an answer with under a minute remaining in the quarter, but a would-be 60-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Richardson was called back because of an illegal forward pass after the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage. After a five-yard penalty and automatic loss of down, the Spartans were forced to punt.
After the punt, Sala marched the Ingots down the field again and with just under nine minutes left in the game ran in for another 10-yard score, putting River Forest up by a touchdown.
“We were a little worried about whether or not we would need the passing game, but we kind of planned for the running game during the last 24 hours,” Bean said.
Sala’s first touchdown run – a one-yard dive – came on River Forest’s first possession, five-and-a-half minutes into the first quarter. The junior collected his fourth score from 14 yards out with just over five minutes left in the game. He also ran in the two-point conversion.
The Spartans had taken their first lead of the game on their first possession of the second half, taking advantage of passes of 20- and 25-yards before Sam Thomas ran in from four yards out to put North Newton ahead 12-6.
North Newton found its passing game midway through the second quarter after Chris McKeown pulled in an interception in Spartans territory. Jono Bigger led a march down the field with completions of 15-, 21-, 11, and four-yards to Richardson before Bigger dove into the endzone from one yard out.