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STRATTANVILLE â€“ The Ridgway football team will go out on a winning note after a 35-0 victory over Clarion-Limestone Friday night at Clarion-Limestone High School.
The Elkers (6-4) built a 28-0 lead at halftime as the defense forced six turnovers from the Clarion-Limestone offense.
"The kids knew what was at stake here," Ridgway coach Mark Heindl said. "They wanted that winning record going in at 6-4 to end the year. These seniors went out in their final games and not only did they go 6-4 but they went out on a win and paved the way for the younger guys coming up through."
Clarion-Limestone (1-9) opened the game with the football and converted a pair of first downs as Lions quarterback Christian Bakewell found Brent Slater for a 15-yard completion. After a 19-yard run, the Lions were across the midfield but Clarion-Limestone fumbled on the next play and Ridgway recovered. Two plays later, the Elkers used some trickery as senior running back Eric Matheson threw a 48-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Aaron Sorge for a 7-0 lead just under two minutes into the game.
"A credit to Coach (Ray) Kelly there, he saw something right away," Heindl said. "We came out and ran it on the second play and we were in the end zone. A big credit goes to our offensive line too. Last week wasn't so great for them over at Elk Catholic. They took control early and had fun with it."
Ridgway forced another turnover on Clarion-Limestone's next play as Mike Cappiello intercepted a pass and returned it to the 20-yard line of the Lions. Cappiello finished off the drive with an 18-yard touchdown on third down as he zig-zagged his way through multiple Lions defenders for a touchdown and a 15-0 lead with 8:29 left in the quarter. More trickery ensued from the Elkers on the conversion as Ridgway ran a fake field goal. Matheson was lined up as the holder and threw a strike to Kyle Caggiano for the 2-point conversion.
Clarion-Limestone punted on its next possession after getting a first down but the Lion defense appeared to make a stand as a Jordan Lundin pass from Ridgway was intercepted by Slater. However, Slater fumbled the interception and Ridgway recovered for a fresh set of downs. The Elkers were held on that possession by the Lions defense and turned the ball over on downs.
Clarion-Limestone went three-and-out on its next possession in the latter stages of the first quarter and Ridgway methodically moved the ball 49 yards for a touchdown in 10 plays. Senior defensive lineman Jared Casolo lined up in the offensive backfield as a fullback and powered his way into the end zone from a yard out to put Ridgway up 22-0 with 7:36 remaining in the second quarter.
The Lions picked up a first down on its next offensive series but Clarion-Limestone fumbled again and it appeared that Anthony Palumbo recovered for Ridgway.
The Elkers punted to pin Clarion-Limestone at its own 17-yard line and the field position paid off as Matheson intercepted a Bakewell pass to set up the Elkers at the 25-yard line of Clarion-Limestone. After a holding penalty, Lundin found Matheson for a 37-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown and a 28-0 lead with 1:44.
The Lions picked up a pair of first downs and moved the ball to the Ridgway 34-yard line but Zac McKnight ended that drive with an interception return of 38 yards to the Clarion-Limestone 28-yard line with 24 seconds left. The Elkers elected to take a knee to end the half.
Ridgway began to eat the clock in the second half as the Elkers ran 11 plays to start the second half. Ridgway fumbled the ball in the Clarion-Limestone red zone to turn the ball over. Clarion-Limestone garnered 36 yards of offense and two first downs but turned it over on downs. Again, Ridgway worked on chewing on the clock and ran 12 more plays as senior Steve Mitchell pounded it in from five yards out to put Ridgway up 35-0 and round out the scoring.
The 35-point margin could have been much worse but the Elkers had three would-be touchdowns called back due to penalties. Ridgway was flagged 10 times for 80 penalty yards.
On defense, Jake Himes recorded his 100th tackle of the season during the fourth quarter.
"Jake's a hard-nosed kid. He'd be the first to tell you he couldn't do it without the other 10 guys on the field surrounding him," Heindl said. "It's a credit to him and a credit to the rest of the team."
This was Ridgway's fifth shutout of the season. Ridgway also had two games where the Elkers allowed just seven points. Heindl said it's a long way from last season where he said the defense was ranked in the bottom 10 in the state.
"Our defensive has been in position all year with five shutouts," Heindl said. "Two other games we gave up seven points. This year we gave up 126 total points. That's a credit to coach (Manny) Barbazzeni and our defensive guys, they're just resilient."
Ridgway finishes the season with a 5-win turnaround after a 1-9 record in 2010.
"We got to keep the momentum going," Heindl said. I told the kids coming off the field, 'You can't be satisfied with this, you got to take it to the next level.' When our off-season starts, we expect big things, especially from our younger kids."
NOTES: Sam Delhunty led Ridgway with 71 yards rushing on 12 carries..Sorge had 54 yards receiving to lead the Elkers in that category..Slater led the Lions with 51 yards receiving on five receptions..This is the third year in a row Ridgway has ended its season with a win over Clarion-Limestone.