The Ridgway football team celebrated its season with a banquet Friday night at Laurel Mill Golf Club.
The team finished with a 6-4 record this season.
“This season started as a season of ‘What ifs’ and ended in a season of prominence,” Ridgway varsity football head coach Mark Heindl said. “We started at Edinboro where we implemented a new offense, the Wing-T. By the end of the weekend, you saw the results as the season went on. From the second half on, you saw what these kids did. We never looked back.
“We definitely developed into a blue-collar team,” Heindl said. “The entire team adjusted their work schedules.”
Ridgway lost to Port Allegany, Curwensville, Brockway and Elk County Catholic.
“In those four losses, we could have easily won those games,” Heindl said. “Port Alllegany, Curwensville, ECC, Brockway. They never quit.”
The team improved by five wins from last season and had its state rankings on offense and defense go up tremendously.
“We went from the bottom 10 in the state last year to being No. 1 in the tri-county area in defense,” Heindl said. “We had five shutouts and gave up 12 points a game. It isn’t by luck, it’s by the hard work of these guys. Offensively, we went from six points a game to 22 points a game.”
Even with six wins, the Elkers were shut out of the playoffs.
“It’s a bitter taste in everybody’s mouth,” Heindl said. “Since 2004, when they expanded the playoffs to eight teams, we’re the only team with a winning record to be sitting home. A 6-4 record last year and we would have been the No. 5 seed. On a positive note, you guys won your last game. Unless you win the state championships, all the other playoff teams will end their season with a loss.”
Mike Cappiello, Steve Mitchell, Jake Himes and Eric Matheson were named as AML All-Stars. Matheson was named to the Big 30 All-Star team.
Chad Quail won a $300 scholarship. Ridgway Area High School was selected for this scholarship by a chapter of officials for this award. The standards for this scholarship were based on good sportsmanship, strong character and good academic standing among other qualifications.
Alex Oknefski was the senior scholar-athlete award winner. Joe Jaques was the underclassman scholar-athlete award winner.
Chet Gardner handed out football helmets to the seniors that had been through the Ridgway program from when they were nine years old until when they graduated.
Those players were Jake Himes, Dustin Blauser, Chris Woods, Chad Quail and Steve Mitchell.
“This is the first group that I was a head coach for,” Gardner said. “Over the years, I hope you have learned a lot about the hard work. You guys are a blue-collar team and work hard on and off the field.”
Heindl had a message for the departing seniors. The seniors are Aaron Sorge, Alex Oknefski, Anthony Palumbo, Chad Quail, Chris Woods, Dustin Blauser, Eric Matheson, Jake Himes, Jared Casolo, Jordan Lundin, Kyle Caggiano, Mike Cappiello, Sam Torrez, Trevor Sandberg, Steve Mitchell.
“For the seniors, you now move on from players to official alumni,” Heindl said. “You’ll be taking these memories with you for the rest of your lifetime.”
Heindl expressed his appreciation to the Ridgway Area School District, superintendant Dr. Michael O’Brien, high school principal Heather McMahon-Vargas, the board of education and athletic director and assistant coach Manny Barbazzeni.
“Manny took on a new position this year as assistant principal and athletic director,” Heindl said. “He was a jack of all trades. The great thing about Manny is not only is he a close personal friend but to see him devote his time going to football, go to a volleyball match and turn around and coming home at 10 at night, that says a lot about him.”
Heindl expressed appreciation to the Ridgway Touchdown Club. The president is Laurie Quail and the vice president is Laurie MacDonald. The secretary is Kris Roselli and the treasurer is Missy Stark. Debbie Delhunty ran the concession stand.
“These ladies here, you see them on Friday nights but Monday through Thursday, they are busting their tails for the betterment of the kids,”
Heindl spoke about Ridgway boys golf coach Dave Zawatski and his help in getting the 2-sport athletes in football and golf to make the schedules work.
“We had to meet with him to get some schedules worked out so these kids can play golf and football as well. We worked the schedule out so all 12 kids could participate,” Heindl said.
Heindl said the community of Ridgway has been supportive of the team.
“The last couple years have not been win- and loss-wise what people expected,” Heindl said. “All the way through it you have some lovers and a lot of haters at times. All through that, they’ve been very supportive of these kids through the borough cleanup and coach’s cards.”
Heindl gave out sweatshirts to the ballboys on the team which were Aaron and Jonathan Hinton, Daunte and Dominic Allegretto and Brady Heindl.
Matt Johnson was the team’s filmer this season.
“We were short a filmer and he volunteered,” Heindl said. “He thought it was going to just be Friday night but he didn’t realize it was going to be our 2-a-day practices as well. He took time out of his schedule to help us out.”
Heindl expressed appreciation to the assistant coaches and the coaches of all the teams through the program.
“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Heindl said. “Your time and dedication to these programs is unprecedented. I can’t ask for a better group of men to work with and they’re like father figures to your sons.”