BRADFORD — By and large, Bradford’s defense came to play Friday night. In fact, it kept the Owls in the mix throughout most of the first half even as the offense sputtered.
But too many miscues, a sluggish offensive performance and special teams errors ultimately proved to be Bradford’s undoing in a 45-14 loss to Ridgway at Parkway Field.
Bradford (0-2) had trailed the Elkers (2-0) just 9-0 with only 2:30 to go in the first half before a muffed Elker punt and a fumbled snap on a Bradford punt gave Ridgway short fields on back-to-back possessions.
The results were a 13-yard touchdown pass from Ben Briggs to Michael Gresco, and then a three-yard touchdown run for Dominic Cherry that put the Elkers up 24-0 going into the break, a lead that only grew during the second half.
Ridgway gained 258 yards of total offense, 157 of which came on the ground. It marked a steep improvement for Bradford’s defensive unit, which had surrendered 459 yards at St. Marys the week before.
But the advantageous field position for Ridgway proved to be too much — a trend that continued into the second half.
On Bradford’s second possession of the third quarter, the Owls fumbled at their own four yard line. A play later, Elker tailback Domenic Allegretto plunged into the end zone to put Ridgway up 31-0.
Then, the Owls went three-and-out on their next possession, and Allegretto returned the ensuing punt 54 yards to the Bradford six, which resulted in a subsequent six-yard scoring run for Cole Casilio.
It marked the second week in a row Ridgway has used its opponent’s miscues to generate points. The Elkers turned a pair of Kane fumbled into 14 points a week ago in a 17-14 win over Kane to open the season.
“(It was tough) to lose the amount of kids we had from last year, but to see the senior class kind of take charge on where they want to go with things (is good),” Ridgway head coach Mark Heindl said. “And my hat’s off to Bradford tonight… It was a good football game tonight, a good outcome at the end, but we have a big one coming next week (against St. Marys).”
While Bradford’s special teams did its defense no favors, neither did the Owl offense. Bradford mustered just 26 yards on the night, and lost three fumbles in all.
Quarterback Austen Davis completed three of eight passes for 23 yards before exiting the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit from a blitzing Elker linebacker. In his place, Troy Adkins went 5-for-10 on the night, including a 24-yard deep pass to Jake Pattison — by far the Owls’ longest play of the night.
Puglio mentioned that Adkins will work in with the first team some this week, as Davis’ status is unknown.
The Owls will also look to get their ground game — and Nolan Gonzalez and Elijah Fitton, specifically — moving earlier and more often. Thus far, Bradford has rushed for 46 yards through two games.
Bradford scored its pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, as Nate Girdlestone returned an Elker fumble seven yards for a score, and then Fitton returned a Ridgway kickoff 80 yards with 14 seconds to go. Owl kicker Abbie Nuzzo hit both of her extra points.
Fitton’s kickoff return was the highlight of Bradford’s strong performance on kickoff returns, as Fitton frequently put the Owls in strong starting field position.
Bradford will look to get its season on track next week with a home matchup with Kane.
Ridgway, meanwhile, travels to St. Marys Friday.
“We have a lot of things we have to fix,” Heindl said. “We left a lot of points out on the field tonight, and a lot of mistakes we have to fix in all phases of the game. But to have the opportunity to go to St. Marys next week, we’re both very disciplined teams. St. Marys has come a long way in the last couple years.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge, but we’re going to enjoy this tonight and then get ready for them.”
Score by Quarters
R—Luke Zimmerman 31 FG, 5:58
R—Camron Marciniak 8 run (PAT Failed), 2:37
R—Michael Gresco, 13 pass from Ben Briggs (Briggs run), 2:08
R:—Dominic Cherry, 3- run (Luke Zimmerman kick), 1:03
R—Domenic Allegretto, 4 run (Zimmerman kick), 3:25
R—Cole Casilio, 6 run (PAT Failed), 0:52
B—Nate Girdlestone, 7 fumble return (Abbie Nuzzo kick), 11:08
R—Zimmerman, 40 punt return (run failed), 0:28
B:—Elijah Fitton, 80 kickoff return (Nuzzo kick), 0:14
Ridgway—Eric Salberg 6-20, Briggs 5-22, Dominic Cherry 6-28-1, Camron Marciniak 6-31-1, Domenic Allegretto 1-4-1, Cole Casilio 1-6-1, Luke Zimmerman 5-16, Eric Hoffman 2-9, Nate McCurdy 1-5, Rayce Millard 1-16.
Bradford—Davis 4-(-2), Elijah Fitton 3-3, Nolan Gonzalez 6-1, Ashton Smith 1-(-10), Adkins 5-5, Tyson Ray 1-(-5).
Ridgway—Ben Briggs 8 of 12, 101 yds., 1 TD, 0 Int.; Jonathan Hinton 0 of 1.
Bradford—Austen Davis 3 of 8, 23 yds.; Troy Adkins 5 of 10, 11 yds.
Ridgway—Cherry 3-33, Salberg 1-12, Marciniak 1-7, Michael Gresco 3-45.
Bradford—Dalton Dixon 2-22, Jake Pattison 3-27, Fitton 1-1, Nate Girdlestone 1-4, Arick Himes 1-(-5)