Ligonier Valley hangs on for second straight District 6 2A Title
Written by: Billy Splain on Sunday, November 19th, 2017
Bend but don’t break. That was the term being thrown around every where you walked in the crowd that was celebrating the Ligonier Valley Rams second straight District 6, Class 2A Title. The Rams defense bent all night night while facing the Crushers of Bishop McCort, but it never broke, stopping the Crushers inside their 20 a total of three times, twice in the first half, sending the Rams to Hersheypark on Saturday at 12:30 to face Dunmore in the PIAA state playoff Quarterfinal round with a 19-12 win at a rainy Mansion Park in Altoona. “Defense is what this team is about. It’s what we’ve been about since the summer. Coach Faust does a great job. Some times we guessed right, and some times we missed and they got a big run. But I’m just so proud of these guys” said Ligonier Head Coach Roger Beitel.
Bishop McCort held the ball for nearly the entire first half, allowing just 17 Ligonier offensive plays. “Only having three possessions in the first half hurt us, and we were losing the turnover battle” said Ligonier quarterback John Caldwell. The Rams had both an interception and a fumble on 2 of their three first half possessions, but it was the one in the middle that paid off. Starting at their 31, Ligonier marched to the McCort one yard line where Jackson Daugherty took the ball into the endzone with 5 seconds left in the first quarter. The point after failed leaving it 6-0, and the score would remain so for most of the first half.
Daugherty in from 1. Rams up 6-0 13 seconds left first pic.twitter.com/pY5TnQC0FI
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The Crushers made their last possession count getting to the Ram 24 where Bryon Gephart bounced a kick off the crossbar for a 41 yard field goal as time expired in the half. The Rams started the second half strong, going straight to the endzone on a Caldwell to Daugherty 15 yard td strike, but once again the point after was no good, leaving it 12-3. Caldell also found Aaron Sheeder for a big 26 yard gain in the drive.
McCort used a punishing and deceptive counter running game that kept the Rams at bay all night long. On their first series of the second half, Ben Walters (19-92 on the night) and Carnell Andrews (20-92) along with quarterback William Miller gashed the Rams defense on big runs, getting to the Ram four, but for the third time Cole Peters and his defense held tough and stopped the Crushers at the one yard line. The stop, however, didn’t turn out to be a good thing as, on the next play, the Rams had a bad snap that they had to cover in the end zone, giving the Crushers a safety. “Credit to McCort, they came out with a great game plan. We ran just 13 or 15 plays in the first half. We couldn’t get off the field defensively but we held them when we had to” said Beitel.
With the time of possession in favor of McCort, and the Rams losing the turnover battle plus giving up the safety, the defense once again decided to make a play. With the Crushers driving, Andrews took off up the middle for a 12 yard run to the 20 but a Ram defender nailed him and the ball popped straight up in the air. When it landed, Sully Scheultz landed on the rolling leather to halt the Crusher drive. “That was HUGE for us, at that point we were looking for a break because all the turnovers were going their way” said Beitel. The Rams didn’t score on the drive, but they were able to eat up some valuable time, forcing the McCort offense into something a veer running attack isn’t comfortable with, passing the ball while playing catch up in a hurry.
Ligonier sealed the deal on their last drive of the game. The Rams got the ball with 6:35 remaining in the game. On third and 5 at the McCort 38, Daugherty (who scored all three Ram tds with 102 yards rushing and 38 receiving) hit the line on a carry. With the Crushers thinking turnover and just grabbing at the ball, Daugherty made a couple moves and was off to the races. This time the pat from Peter Stoll was true, and the Rams were up 19-5 with a minute and a half left. “Jackson is the star player of this team and he showed that here tonight. I can’t even describe it. It’s the best feeling ever” noted Caldwell of his teammates effort and the feeling of winning two district titles in a row.
Williams was able to get the ball into the endzone for McCort with 7 seconds in the game, but time just ran out for the Crushers, who finish the season 10-3.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS
presented by Altoona’s Mansion Park. Always a great playoff host!
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