CLARION — Last season, the Ridgway football team played in its first PIAA Tournament game in school history against Farrell, a team that finds themselves in the tournament regularly.
Now the Elkers are back and find themselves in the same position as last year, in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals, and once again, against the Steelers. This year, the game will be held at Clarion University. Last year’s game was played at Slippery Rock University, with Farrell taking a 20-7 win.
In last year’s game, the Elkers held their own for much of the game against the perennial powerhouse, but never really got the offense rolling. Ridgway was held to just 30 yards of total offense as quarterback Johnny Mitchell had to leave the game due to injury in the second half.
MacDonald, the Ridgway running back who has made a dangerous duo alongside Mitchell this season, was held to 28 yards on 17 carries.
With a quick glance at Farrell’s roster, Ridgway fans will see many familiar names from last year’s game.
Steeler running back Christian Lewis leads the way with 1,213 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns for the year. He also led Farrell in last year’s game with 91 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, as well as 45 yards receiving on two catches.
Also returning from last year’s Farrell squad are wide receivers Brandon Chambers (27 catches-362 yards, 3 TDs), Tymir Green (6-43) and their main target in Jourdan Townsend, who has exploded for 58 catches and 1,286 receiving yards with 20 touchdowns for the year.
In last year’s game, Townsend caught a 15-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter before taking back a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second half that put the game out of reach for the Elkers.
In the run game, Brandon Chambers is also back as a No. 2 back behind Lewis with 405 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the year.
One of the big changes of the year for Farrell came at the quarterback position. Last year’s QB in Kyi Wright was moved to tight end over the offseason, and Isaac Clarke is the signal-caller this year after transferring to Farrell from Baltimore.
For the year, Clarke is 63 yard short of 2,000 passing yards. The senior has put up some impressive numbers on the year, throwing 28 touchdowns and just one interception.
In last week’s PIAA first round game, Farrell (10-2) defeated District 5’s Northern Bedford, 34-19, after trailing, 19-18, at halftime. Clarke went 7-for-13 for 124 yards and a touchdown in the game. Townsend had 103 yards and five receptions, including the touchdown catch.
Lewis carried the ball 21 times for 169 yards and a rushing touchdown, while Green had two rushing TDs on eight carries and 79 yards.
For the season, the Steelers have five wins of 34 points or more. Their only two losses came to Neshannock (28-26) in Week 0, and to Meadville (36-13) in Week 5.
Meanwhile, Ridgway was given all it could handle in the District 9 Class A championship game against Curwensville last week, coming on top with a 9-7 win.
The Elkers’ Aaron Hinton booted a 32-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give the team the win.
Despite coming out on top over the Tide, Curwensville outgained Ridgway, 188-159, in total offense.
Running back Neil MacDonald was held to 92 yards on 19 carries for the evening, but did surpass the 1,000-yard mark in the game. Elker quarterback Johnny Mitchell threw for 26 yards and ran for 26 more.
For the season, MacDonald now has 1,091 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns. Mitchell is now at 813 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In the run game, the senior signal-caller has compiled 520 yards and has found the end zone six times, including an 18-yard scramble in the second quarter in the district title game.
On the receiving end, Andy Breier leads the way with 10 catches for 271 yards and five touchdowns. MacDonald is also a big factor in the pass game with 240 yards and five touchdowns on 20 receptions.
Kickoff from Memorial Stadium is set for 7 p.m. on Friday.