SHEFFIELD – Twice Sheffield fumbled and twice Ridgway turned those recoveries into touchdowns.
Ridgway scored 13 of its 16 points off of turnovers in a 16-0 victory at Sheffield High School Saturday in a battle of two Allegheny Mountain League teams.
"It was a dogfight," Ridgway coach Mark Heindl said. "At any given time, either team was capable of breaking the big one there. It's a credit to our kids, they really toughened up when they needed to and played one heck of a defensive game. What more could you say?"
Sheffield had the ball on the Ridgway 30-yard line after Nick Bonavita sprinted for 28 yards on a sweep for the Wolverines. The very next play saw the Wolverines fumble on a toss to the left, aided by a hit by Ridgway defender Brett Himes. Eric Matheson scooped up the ball and took it 58 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. It was the second straight week with a fumble recovery taken in for a touchdown by the Ridgway senior after an 11-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery in Week 2 against Smethport.
"He had the fumble recovery and the extra point, then to come back and kick the field goal right before the half, that gave us momentum into the half," Heindl said. "We told the kids all week, the momentum's big, especially when you come to Sheffield on a Saturday afternoon. They took the momentum away and we sealed the game when we needed to."
Sheffield punted twice and Ridgway punted once within the next quarter and a half before the Elkers started a drive with 4:31 left in the half from its own 48-yard line. Ridgway had a total of four first downs on what turned out to be an 11-play drive. Ridgway was closest to the end zone when the Elkers had a 1st-and goal from the Sheffield 4-yard line. Ridgway then had a 3-yard loss, a procedure penalty and an incomplete pass which led to a Matheson 29-yard field goal with five seconds left before halftime.
"It was huge. We put ourselves in position to get on the board a couple times and we shot ourselves in the foot with a penalty or a missed blocking assignment and the next thing you know, you got 3rd-and-long," Heindl said. "Our kids could have collapsed, they didn't, they came back, refocused in the second half and took control when it needed to be."
Ridgway took a 10-0 lead into halftime after a defensive-minded first half. Ridgway had 84 yards on offense, all on the ground. Sheffield finished with 60. Ridgway had 107 total yards in the final 24 minutes.
"A credit to our offensive line, it took them a half to figure out they were stacking so many guys inside the box there," Heindl said. "The second half, we adjusted and moved the ball and got some drives going."
After a Ridgway punt to start the second half, Ridgway capitalized on another Sheffield fumble recovery as defensive lineman Jared Casolo recovered a bad snap from the Wolverines at the Sheffield 25-yard line. After a 5-yard penalty moved the Elkers back, Jordan Lundin hit receiver Aaron Sorge for a 23-yard completion on what turned out to be Lundin's only completion of the game.
Sam Delhunty scored two plays later on a 2-yard touchdown run with around eight minutes left in the third quarter. He led Ridgway with 86 yards on 22 carries on the ground.
"That's key for him," Heindl said. "They're going to key on our wingbacks and that always opens up something for someone else. [Saturday], it was Sammy Delhunty. What a great day for him sharing the load for us."
Sheffield worked the ball near midfield on its ensuing possession but was stuffed on a quarterback sneak as the Wolverines needed only three chain links on fourth down.
The Wolverines had a chance to get back in the game early in the fourth quarter as Sheffield blocked a Ridgway punt and was in business at the Ridgway 29-yard line. Shequan Wright connected with Evan Jamison on a 22-yard pass play to make it 1st-and-goal at the 7-yard line. Three straight incompletions followed and the 4th-down play resulted in an interception by Mike Cappiello of the Elkers.
"That's a credit to coach (Manny) Barbazzeni and the defense there," Heindl said. "They did a great job and when it came to step up, they stepped up and made plays when needed."
The play resulted in a touchback but Ridgway had to start from the 10-yard line after a personal foul penalty on the Elkers, a sign of what turned into a flag-filled fourth quarter because of plays after the whistle. Later in the drive, Delhunty ran the ball 17 yards to the Sheffield 40-yard line before being tackled right in front of the Sheffield bench. The Wolverines were flagged for two personal fouls and 30 yards of penalties. Overall, Sheffield had seven penalties for 60 yards while Ridgway had eight penalties for 55 yards. Heindl said the Elkers showed strong resolve as the fourth quarter became emotionally heated.
"I give our kids a lot of credit. They separated themselves, got back in the huddle and let the officials take care of the game," Heindl said.
Ridgway (2-1) is scheduled to host Cameron County (0-3) on Friday at 7 p.m. in the last AML crossover game before divisional play begins in Week 5. With Curwensville's 35-13 loss to Port Allegany Saturday, five teams in the AML South have 2-1 overall records. Only Johnsonburg at 0-3 is not among that group.
"There's a lot of football left to be played," Heindl said. "Our kids have proven week in and week out that they can compete with anybody. We have to get some consistency within all three phases of the game. We're getting there, it's just going to take us time."
NOTES: Both teams played without any help from the scoreboard in the second half as power was lost and the scoreboard was turned off for the final two quarters. The Wolverines have been shut out in two straight games after a 37-0 loss to Curwensville in Week 2. Sheffield dedicated its newly-renovated athletic complex before the game with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Ridgway 7 3 6 0 - 16
Sheffield 0 0 0 0 - 0
R - Eric Matheson 58 fumble return (Matheson kick), 4:55
R - Matheson 29 field goal, :05
R - Sam Delhunty 2 run (kick failed)
Ridgway Team stats Sheffield
13 First downs 9
45-168 Rushes-yards 27-41
23 Passing yards 86
191 Total yards 127
1-0 Fumbles-lost 3-2
7-55 Penalties-yards 8-60
Passing: Ridgway: Jordan Lundin 1-9-23-0-1. Sheffield: Shequan Wright 8-20-74-0-1, Ike Nearing 1-3-12-0-1, Nick Bonavita 0-1-0-0-0.
Rushing: Ridgway: Sam Delhunty 22-86, Eric Matheson 9-38, Jordan Lundin 7-25, Logan Wickett 7-19. Sheffield: Nick Bonavita 16-70, Ike Nearing 1(-5), George Lopez 1-(-12), Shequan Wright 9-(-12).
Receiving: Ridgway: Aaron Sorge 1-23. Sheffield: Evan Jamison 4-55, Nick Bonavita 4-30, Ike Nearing 1-1.