CLARION — The Ridgway football team simply had no answer for the speed and athleticism of the Farrell Steelers.
The Elkers never really got anything going on offense, and Farrell ran almost twice as many plays on offense on the night as the Steelers shut out Ridgway, 36-0, on Friday evening in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals at Clarion University’s Memorial Stadium.
Farrell was aided by their big plays on the night, especially through the passing game. Quarterback Isaac Clarke threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns on the night. Both touchdowns went to Jourdan Townsend, who ended the game with eight catches for 228 yards.
In the process, both Clarke and Townsend broke records on the night. Clarke, which transferred to Farrell from Baltimore, became Farrell’s single-season passing leader with 2,203 yards.
Townsend broke the receiving and touchdown records in District 10 on the night. He now has 1,512 yards receiving and 22 touchdowns.
“They’re very athletic,” said Ridgway head coach Mark Heindl. “There’s a reason why last year they were in the Western Final, two years ago they were in the state finals. They’re going to make a press next week to make another run at the state championship.”
The talent was very noticeable right from the get-go for the Steelers as the first play from scrimmage was a deep ball from Clarke to Townsend for a 73-yard touchdown. Farrell then ran a fake field goal for the extra point as Clarke hit Tymir Green for the two-point conversion for a quick 8-0 lead. Farrell did not attempt a PAT in the contest.
“You can’t coach speed,” said Heindl. “Credit to our kids. We came here and we thought we had a good plan against them, but they hit that first play right off the bat.”
The Ridgway defense did come up big on Farrell’s next possession, stopping Clarke on a QB sneak on fourth down. However, the Elkers couldn’t do anything with it and punted away after three plays.
Clarke then hit Townsend with two more big plays on their next series –one on a reception for 34 yards and the other for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left in the first quarter. The two-point conversion run was short, giving Farrell a 14-0 lead.
Ridgway didn’t get a first down until the second quarter when quarterback Johnny Mitchell dumped off a pass to Evan Furlong for a 12-yard gain on third-and-3 down to the Steelers’ 40. However, three plays later, Mitchell was intercepted by Townsend to end the drive.
This time, Farrell got their run game going as Christian Lewis took a toss to the left, made a cut to his right, and sprinted for the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown. The two-point pass was no good.
Later in the quarter, Clare hit Townsend for a 57-yard reception down to the Ridgway 4. Green ran in the touchdown on the next play, while Clarke hit Townsend for the two-point conversion with 30 seconds left in the first half, giving Farrell a 28-0 lead.
Ridgway’s Aaron Hinton took the ensuing kickoff to the Farrell 30, but two holding penalties stopped the Elkers’ chances of getting a score before the half as Farrell took a 28-0 lead into halftime.
On Farrell’s first possession of the second half, the Elker defense looked to have the Steelers stopped on a fourth down incompletion, but Ridgway was called for a roughing the passer penalty, extending Farrell’s drive.
The Steelers pounded in the touchdown three plays later on Green’s four-yard run. Once again, Clarke hit Townsend for the two-point conversion as Farrell took a 36-0 lead with 5:20 to play in the third quarter.
Many of the backups played for Farrell through the end of the game as they only ran two plays in Ridgway territory for the rest of the game.
Ridgway’s Neil MacDonald, their main weapon, was held to just eight yards on three carries for the night as he spent most of the game split out as a receiver.
Mitchell led Ridgway (9-4) with 27 yards on nine carries, while Furlong had seven totes for 16 yards.
“We could’ve folded our tents a couple times, but our kids held strong, played like champs through the fourth quarter and that’s all we can ask for,” said Heindl. “I can’t say how proud I am of the kids. We’re district champions. To be playing past Thanksgiving, that’s a little icing on the cake. Things didn’t go our way, but best of luck to Farrell, and I can’t thank our seniors enough.
“My hat’s off to Farrell. But credit to our kids tonight. Nobody expected us to be here with the big injury to Joey (Elinski) early in the year, three losses by 11 points, our kids battled. That’s all you can ask for.”
Heindl also noted all of the seniors’ accomplishments through their career. The Elkers’ 16 seniors played 36 games in their career, which is most in Ridgway school history and won back-to-back District 9 titles for the first time.
“Our senior class gave so much back,” said Heindl. “They definitely left the program better than what it was when they got there. Credit to those kids. The younger guys have big shoes to fill, but I know they’ll look forward to the challenge and they’ll try to be back here next year.”
Farrell (11-2) will play District 7 champion Jeannette next week in the PIAA Class A Western Final at a site, day and time to be determined. Jeannette beat Imani Christian Academy, 35-34, on Saturday.