RIDGWAY —The highly anticipated District 9 League Large School Division showdown between Clarion and Ridgway never materialized last Friday night as the Elkers rolled past the Bobcats, 42-0, before a spirited Homecoming crowd at Memorial Field.
The defending division champions scored four plays into the game, found the end zone on four straight drives to start the game and six of nine overall while racking up 445 yards of offense, 315 of those on the ground in a statement victory.
While Ridgway controls its destiny on winning a second straight division title thanks to Kane’s loss to Karns City last week — the Elkers travel to Karns City for a big game this week and then host Brookville in Johnsonburg in two weeks — while Clarion will need help from someone to claim the division crown.
The Bobcats, 6-1 now with Ridgway and Brookville going into Friday’s home game with Bradford, had trouble stopping the Elkers obviously, but they moved the ball as well with 289 yards. But they turned the ball over on downs five different times in Elkers territory.
Certainly a factor in the Bobcats’ inability to stop the Elkers or finish off a drive was the absence of star running back Austin Newcomb, who was not in uniform for the game. Bobcats Larry Wiser refused to comment on why he didn’t play.
Newcomb set the D9 single-season rushing record last year at C-L with 2,627 yards and 35 rushing TDs. This year, he had rushed for 937 yards on 89 carries with 15 TDs and overall he’s accounted for 17 of the Bobcats’ 39 TDs this year along with a team-high three interceptions on defense.
“I’m really proud of our kids right now,” said Ridgway coach Mark Heindl. “To come out tonight against a very good, well-coached Clarion team ... the 42 points doesn’t show the whole story of how hard our kids our kids worked. My hat’s off to Larry Wiser, though. I know his kids will rebound and we’ll probably see them down the road. With or without Newcomb, Clarion is a very good football team.”
“Ridgway took it to us from the start,” said Wiser. “I give them (Elkers) a lot of credit, but why we were flat and sour, I have no idea. I’ve been in this for 40-some years, and i still sometimes never know what happens there. Were we flat or they that great. Hopefully, we’ll get an opportunity to see each other again and find out down the line.”
The Elkers led 28-0 by halftime and put the PIAA’s Mercy Rule running clock into motion when Jake Wickett ran 30 yards for the first of two second-half TDs. He added a 19-yarder in the fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 150 yards on 10 carries. Gabe Watts ran for 68 yards on 13 carries and scored on first-half runs of 1 and 4 yards.
Quarterback Paul Gresco added a 1-yard TD run in the second quarter and hit Matt Dush with a 34-yard scoring pass to make it 28-0 by the 2:40 mark of the second. Dush caught four passes for 61 yards and ran for 82 yards on two carries while Gresco completed 8 of 10 passes for 130 yards.
Dush also played for the first time on defense this year and shadowed the Bobcats’ top receiving target Ethan Burford, who caught three passes for just 27 yards. He had 20 catches for 711 yards and 10 TDs going into the game.
With the shutout, the Bobcats actually put up decent numbers which indicated some ability to move the ball. Colton Zacherl ran for 110 yards on 18 carries while Cutter Boggess finished with 81 yards on 10 carries. Quarterback Cal German completed 8 of 21 passes for 106 yards. Boggess caught three passes for 68 yards.
Courier-Express Sports Editor Chris Wechtenhiser contributed to this story.