DuBOIS — It’s back to the District 9 Class A championship game for the Ridgway football team.
The second-seeded Elkers raced out to a 27-0 lead in just over 16 minutes of play in Saturday’s District 9 Class A semifinal against No. 6 Coudersport and never looked back in a 47-6 rout over the Falcons at Mansell Stadium in DuBois.
“It’s an exciting thing for our kids and our program,” said Ridgway coach Mark Heindl. “I couldn’t be any more prouder of them.
“Coudersport came out fired up, ready to go and stuffed us the first three plays of the game. Then our guys woke up and played our style of football. Forced turnovers, and capitalized on turnovers. I’m just so proud of our guys right now.”
The Elkers will now turn their sights to repeating as the D-9 champions. Ridgway defeated Elk County Catholic, 42-13, in last year’s title game.
Ridgway went with their bread-and-butter in the run game to grab the 41-point victory on Saturday afternoon. The Elkers racked up 297 rushing yards and had 12 different players enter the box score in the rushing category.
Quarterback Johnny Mitchell led the way with 131 yards on the ground on eight carries, while Neil MacDonald registered 14 carries for 74 yards. Aaron Hinton added 51 yards on six totes.
Coudersport made the semifinals by upsetting No. 3 Clarion-Limestone, 44-40, in a D-9 quarterfinal game last week. The Falcons were down 20-0 after a quarter, only to tie the game by halftime and take the lead in the second half.
“We preached all week we had to be more physical than them,” said Heindl. “To see what Coudersport did down at C-L last week, being down 20-0 and fight their way back, we knew they were fighters. We knew we had to play physical with them, not just for a quarter or two, but all four quarters and our kids did that today.”
Ridgway punted twice to start the game, but the Elkers got their first spark of life from an interception from Andy Breier that was taken back 26 yards for a touchdown. However, the touchdown was waved off after the Ridgway bench was called for a sideline warning, and a 15-yard penalty was issued.
Six plays later, the Elkers put in their first touchdown of the day on a MacDonald 2-yard touchdown on a dive, with Hinton’s PAT giving them a 7-0 lead with 2:28 to play in the first quarter.
But the fireworks were only starting from there for Ridgway as the ensuing kickoff was recovered by the Elkers at the 24-yard line.
The Elkers pushed the ball in again on the first play of the second quarter, with MacDonald once again scoring from two yards out on fourth-and-1.
After forcing Coudy to punt again after a three-and-out, Mitchell broke off his biggest play of the day –a 70-yard touchdown run on a scramble, using both sides of the field on his way to the end zone. Hinton’s extra point gave the Elkers a 21-0 lead.
“Johnny plays well on turf,” said Heindl. “It’s his big thing. But Johnny would be the first guy to tell you without his offensive line, he wouldn’t be able to do any of that stuff today. It wasn’t just one guy or two guys, it was a complete team effort. To see our guys, all 52 of them, be a part of the game, that says something in the district semifinal.”
Coudersport faced a third-and-4 at their own 38 on their next series. Hayden Keck looked down the field to pass, but was drilled by Jake Zimmerman on the play as Zimmerman forced the fumble. The ball was picked up by MacDonald, and he sprinted 28 yards for a touchdown off a fumble recovery. The PAT was blocked, giving Ridgway a 27-0 lead with 7:46 to play in the first half.
“When you force turnovers, you put teams in uncomfortable positions,” said Heindl. “Today we did that to Coudersport.”
That 27-0 Ridgway lead stuck through the rest of the first half.
Coudersport managed to get a first down before punting the ball away to start the second half.
Ridgway needed just five plays to find the end zone again, this time coming on the feet of Mitchell again. The senior quarterback scrambled for 12 yards for a score.
The Elkers tried a two-point conversion pass with offensive lineman Max Cowan making the catch in the end zone. However, Cowan was ruled an ineligible receiver as he was not reported eligible to the referee.
The Elkers also scored once through the air early in the fourth quarter as Mitchell hit Josh Thorwart with a floating jump ball with a Coudersport defender hanging on him. Hinton’s extra point with 11:04 to play gave Ridgway a 40-0 lead with the Mercy Rule clock in effect.
The Elker defense forced another fumble on the first play of their next drive, which was Coudersport’s sixth fumble of the day and their third one lost.
After seven plays, it was Hayden Yeager that ran in the last of the Ridgway touchdowns with 6:17 to play. Paul Gresco kicked the extra point to make it 47-0.
On Coudersport’s next possesion, Keck hit Daniel Frame with a 48-yard pass down to the Ridgway 7. The Falcons pushed in their lone score two plays later on a a Jacob Pitcher 6-yard dive with 3:19 to play. The extra point was blocked, which set the final.
The Falcons were held to 74 yards rushing and 50 passing for 124 total yards of offense. Brandt Kightlinger had a 33-yard rush on the next-to-last play of the game, while Stevie Kelly had 28 yards on 14 carries.
On top of his 131 rushing yards, Mitchell also threw for 23 yards and the touchdown on 2-for-6 passing.
Ridgway will now play Curwensville in the District 9 Class A championship on Friday. The Tide defeated Redbank Valley on Saturday evening in the nightcap of the Class A semifinal doubleheader at Mansell Stadium.
“We have to get ready for a new beast,” said Heindl. “Whether it’s Redbank or Curwensville, we’re excited to be a part of it.
“It doesn’t matter who we see. When you get down to this point of the season, you’re not seeing any slouches. We’re here for a reason, and Redbank and Curwensville are in the district semifinals for a reason. We’re excited.”
The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday night back at Mansell Stadium.