It was a clean sweep for Eric Matheson Saturday night.
Matheson had all 28 of Ridgway's points as Ridgway won its home opener 28-7 over Smethport at Memorial Field in Ridgway.
Matheson had four total touchdowns and four extra points. Ridgway coach Mark Heindl said Matheson's determination is something the other players are trying to input into their own effort.
"Eric is a hard-nosed kid. He's one of those kids that will do anything at any time for anybody to help the team win," Heindl said.
Ridgway (1-1) capitalized on Smethport's nonchalance with the football as the Hubbers turned the ball over four times with three fumbles lost and an interception. A key turnover happened on Smethport's first drive of the game after Ridgway had to punt. Quarterback Kevin Lord took an option play for 26 yards on Smethport's third play of its first possession down to the Ridgway 13-yard line. With the ball on the 4-yard line, Smethport (0-2) fullback Ryan Stratten took the ball up the middle and lost the handle and possession as Ridgway defensive lineman Alex Oknefski recovered at the Ridgway 1-yard line.
"The biggest thing with our kids is you can bend but you can't break," Heindl said. "They bent and it got pretty bent there, I thought they were going to break the dam there for a while but they manned up again. It just wasn't one or two kids, it was the whole team effort in all three phases of the game. They're excited and they have every right to be."
Stratten ended up being Smethport's leading rusher with 82 yards on 16 carries. Karl Lightner was held to 47 yards on 10 carries after a 178-yard effort in Week 1 against Curwensville.
"Jared Casolo, Cortland Smith, Alex Oknefski, Chad Quail, Chris Woods, those guys manned up and took responsibility in there," Heindl said. "To go against a team like Smethport with what they did last week, putting up all those points on the board. Our kids did a phenomenal job up front to shut down their gaps and forcing them to do things that they weren't comfortable doing."
Heindl said the Ridgway defensive had a strong effort in shutting down cutback lanes.
"One of the things with Lightner that we worked on all week that he did a phenomenal job last week against Curwensville with was he got a lot of his yards from cutbacks," Heindl said. "We worked very hard on that this week. A credit to our kids, they took back the cutback lanes and bottled him up."
Ridgway garnered a pair of first downs and punted to Smethport. The Hubbers then fumbled the ball again and Matheson recovered for the Elkers. After three straight series of punts by the two teams, Tony Leithner picked off a Lord pass for the Elkers, setting up Ridgway at the Smethport 39-yard line. Ridgway went 3-and-out and punted, pinning Smethport at its own 4-yard line. After Smethport could not get a first down, the Hubbers punted and Matheson ran the punt 37 yards for the game's first touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 5:16 left in the second quarter.
"Special teams, that's why I say it's a third of the game," Heindl said. "The first half, that punt return by Eric really jumpstarted things for us. It went back-and forth with three-and-outs for both teams but our kids manned up and played a heck of a football game."
Neither team had much going on offense in the first half. Each team had zero passing yards. Smethport had 74 rushing yards and Ridgway had 30 rushing yards at halftime.
Each team had a 3-and-out to start the second half on offense as Smethport had the first possession of the third quarter. Ridgway punted with the ball at the Hubber 40-yard line and Hubber punt returner Clay Schuler fumbled. Matheson was in the right spot with the scoop and 11-yard fumble return for a touchdown to put Ridgway up 14-0.
As the fourth quarter commenced, Ridgway started a drive with a 1st-and-10 at its own 22-yard line. After a 2-yard loss on a run play, Matheson had receptions of 24 and 37 yards to set the offense up at the Smethport 23-yard line. Heindl said the work of assistant coach Ray Kelly has helped the offense.
"Coach Kelly put so much time in this off-season getting our offense up and running," Heindl said. "It's a brand new offense system for us and they just kept stacking guys to the inside. A credit to coach there, he made the call and Jordan executed it for two great catches to put us in great position to put it in the end zone."
Quarterback Jordan Lundin had a 12-yard gain on a quarterback keeper. On a 3rd-and-3 at the 4-yard line, running back Sam Delhunty took the ball up the middle and lost the ball stretching for the goal line. Matheson recovered in the end zone for the touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 8:32 left.
Smethport had its only sustained drive on the ensuing possession as Lord capped it off with an 8-yard touchdown run. While the Hubbers climbed closer, the drive took nearly five minutes off the clock and Smethport had 3:43 left to make up a 21-7 deficit.
The Elkers put the game away as Matheson scored on a 47-yard touchdown run to take a 28-7 lead with just under two minutes remaining. Heindl said the Elkers had great conditioning and began to get running lanes as the game wore on.
"A credit to our kids and the condition that they're in," Heindl said. "They wanted it more than the other team. What a heck of a game by 27 kids that played their hearts out."
Ridgway plays on Saturday for the third straight week as the Elkers travel to take on Sheffield at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Sheffield will work on a short week as the Wolverines will finish their suspended with Curwensville at 6 p.m. tonight. Curwensville was ahead 15-0 on Friday night when the game was suspended due to poor weather.
NOTES: Delhunty led Ridgway with 43 yards rushing, his second straight week of leading the team..Saturday was the conclusion of the suspended game from Friday night, the game started with 11:36 left in the first quarter and Ridgway in possession..Smethport hosts Brockway (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Smethport 0 0 0 7 - 7
Ridgway 0 7 7 14 - 28
R - Eric Matheson 37 punt return (Matheson kick), 5:16
R - Matheson 11 fumble return (Matheson kick), 7:44
R - Matheson fumble recovery in end zone (Matheson kick), 8:32
S - Kevin Lord 5 run (Clay Schuler kick), 3:43
R - Matheson 47 run (Matheson kick), 1:51
Smethport Team stats Ridgway
8 First downs 6
38-179 Rushes-yards 41-130
32 Passing yards 57
211 Total yards 187
5-3 Fumbles-lost 0-0
3-15 Penalties-yards 1-15
Passing: Smethport: Kevin Lord 5-15-32-0-1. Ridgway: Jordan Lundin 2-5-57-0-0.
Rushing: Smethport: Ryan Stratten 16-82, Kevin Lord 10-49, Karl Lightner 10-47, Josh Hallock 2-1. Ridgway: Sam Delhunty 12-43, Eric Matheson 8-38, Logan Wickett 11-25, Jordan Lundin 10-24.
Receiving: Smethport: Clay Schuler 3-25, Tyler Smead 1-7, Ryan Stratten 1-0. Ridgway: Eric Matheson 2-57.