Ligonier Valley Wins Emotional Game with Homer-Center
Written by: Phil Myers on Saturday, October 7th, 2017
Just a few days after an automobile accident claimed the life of former Ligonier Valley player, Nick Neiderhiser, his Ram teammates stepped up in a hostile environment and handed Homer-Center their first loss of the season, 35-6. Head Coach Roger Beitel said, “I’m very proud of our kids and the effort they put forth tonight. They were extremely motivated to win this for Nick, and mission accomplished. There’s still a lot of healing to be done, but with a win they wanted to present the game ball to Nick’s family.”
The game was played at Memorial Field in Homer City before a packed house. “Largest crowd of the year,” according to a couple of die-hard Wildcat fans. It was also a special night for Homer-Center, as they honored the 1977 undefeated team who was named the top Single A team in the state that year. So, on both sides of the field was an air of electricity, not to mention both teams being undefeated.
Homer-Center won the toss and deferred their choice until the second half, electing to play defense first. That strategy worked when they forced the visitors into a three and out. The Wildcats began their opening drive at their 31, but on a third and long a fumble was recovered by LV’s Blake Bridge at the H-C 17. Two plays after an Aaron Sheeder touchdown run was called back due to a hold, QB Jackson Daugherty took the snap, bounced off a would-be tackler in the backfield, and raced 13 yards to the house to put Ligonier in the lead. Peter Stoll’s first of 5 PATs made it 7-0 at the eight-minute mark of the first.
An exchange of punts saw the Wildcats begin their third drive at the one. A third down run of 23 yards by Jesse Lee gave the home team some breathing room. But on the next play, Michael McVicker fell on another fumble that gave the white clad, red trim visitors the ball at the H-C 23. On the second play from scrimmage, QB John Caldwell connected on a 21-yard scoring strike to Daugherty to send Ligonier to a 14-0 lead with less than a minute on the first period clock. It was Caldwell’s first of three TD passes. “When you have two all-state receivers to throw to it makes my job much easier,” stated Caldwell.
On their next possession, the black and white jerseyed Wildcats proceeded to cough the pigskin up for a third time one play after Lee had rushed 7 yards for a first down. Cole Peters was the lucky Ram who fell on the loose ball this time. Less than a minute into quarter two, Caldwell found Aaron Tutino, the other all-state receiver, from 26 yards out and just like that the score ballooned to 21-0. “This is a perfect example of why you can’t give turnovers on your front porch,” exclaimed Greg Page, Homer-Center’s head coach, “they have good athletes and they took advantage.”
Homer-Center then answered the bell and drove 70 yards to score only the second touchdown that the Rams have given up all year. Freshman QB Ben Schmidt lobbed a perfect pass into the arms of Cobe Daugherty for the 22-yard touchdown. The point after hit the crossbar to keep the score at 21-6 with 7:45 left in the half.
The Rams put together their first sustained drive of the night and upped their lead to 28-6 with less than two minutes remaining in the half. Aaron Tutino, took a pitch, broke a tackle on the sideline and sprinted 17 yards that pretty much put a nail in the coffin for the Wildcats even though there was still a half to play.
The second half saw Homer-Center begin the initial drive on their 35, but a couple of penalties and the Ram defense forced them to punt from their 14. Tutino returned the short punt 13 yards and Ligonier once again set up shop deep in Wildcat territory at the thirty. A subsequent third and six from the 14 found Caldwell hitting Sheeder in the flat and Aaron plowed into the end zone through a Wildcat defender. That TD rounded out the scoring for the rest of the game. “Johnny Caldwell, I can’t say enough about the job he did tonight,” said Beitel, “he called the touchdown pass to Sheeder. He saw something and it worked. He is super cerebral. Maybe not eye-popping numbers, but third down conversions, TD passes, etc. He is one of the smartest kids in our school.”
Both teams moved the ball a little for the rest of the half and both teams had the ball in or near the red zone, but nobody scored again. Caldwell ended up 11 of 16 passing for 150 yards with the 3 touchdowns. Daugherty caught five of those tosses for 99 yards and a score. Daugherty was also the leading ground gainer for the game as he ran for 97 yards on 13 carries, mostly from the quarterback position. When Caldwell is in, the Rams pass much of the time. When Daugherty is QB, it more than likely is a running play. The two quarterback system appears to be working well for the Rams. Ligonier had a total of 339 yards for the game.
For Homer-Center, Jesse Lee gained 72 yards on 15 tries, while Schmidt completed 8 of 16 passes for 79 yards and a TD. The Wildcats ended up with a total of 183 total yards. “I am extremely pleased with our kids’ effort tonight,” said Coach Page, “I thought we were physical, I thought we made them work, I thought we came back offensively and did some really good things.” Coach Beitel echoed those thoughts, “It was a great football team we played tonight.”
Other Notes: Ligonier Valley’s leading tackler, Joey Dubics, was injured late in the game running the ball, hopefully not enough to keep him out. “That was the most physical game we’ve played since the state semi-finals against Southern Columbia last year,” Coach Beitel commented. H-C travels to West Shamokin next week to face the 4-3 Wolves, while LV hosts 1-6 Blairsville. The Homer-Center band did an excellent job at half time playing music from the Phantom of the Opera. Also, the alumni band played ‘Hey Baby’ from the year 1961. The alumni band included majorettes from yesteryear and it was amazing to see they could still twirl batons so well.
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