JOHNSONBURG – Johnsonburg football fans have been waiting two years to see a Ram football win at home.
The Rams delivered Friday night against an oldtime rival.
Johnsonburg held off a late Ridgway drive for a 13-12 victory Friday at Memorial Field in Johnsonburg.
After 108 meetings between the two teams, the series is tied 50-50-8.
"It feels great," Johnsonburg coach Jesse Schreiber said. "It's for the kids, they played extremely well. It's huge, it's a rivalry game. It doesn't matter what our record is. It's a rivalry game and it's big."
Johnsonburg's last home win was in October 2010, a 41-0 victory over the Elkers. The home team has won the last three games in the series.
Ridgway had a chance to mount a final drive with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter. The Elkers were pinned at their own 4-yard line after a 31-yard punt by Kyle Sheldon. Ridgway had a big play right away as Logan Wickett ran left on a sweep for 31 yards to the 35-yard line. After a 1-yard loss, Sam Delhunty ran up the middle for 11 yards and a first down. After an incompletion on first down, Frank Kocjancic nearly had an interception as he deflected a Ben MacDonald pass from Ridgway. MacDonald would make up for his near-error on third down, hitting JoJo Jaques for 14 yards and a Ridgway first down to the Johnsonburg 41-yard line.
Delhunty ran for one yard on first down and then there was an incompletion on second down. Jaques caught a 6-yard pass on third down which set up a 4th-and-3 on the Johnsonburg 34-yard line. With time winding down under a minute, MacDonald ran a quarterback draw up the middle which was stuffed one yard shy of the first down to turn the ball over on downs. Johnsonburg just needed to kneel on the ball twice to seal the team's second win of the season.
"Our kids didn't quit the entire game," Ridgway coach Mark Heindl said. "It stinks that we're on the opposite end of the scoreboard but a credit to Johnsonburg, they didn't quit either. They deserved to win [Friday night]."
After scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter, Ridgway was shut out for the rest of the game.
"We were in a four, we went back to our three," Schreiber said. "I think the kids just settled down. My coaches do a great job of scouting. We had a great gameplan going in. We stopped the pass and we stopped the run."
Heindl said Ridgway had trouble getting big plays to the outside.
"They took away our outside game which is our bread and butter," Heindl said. "We tried to hit some things inside but numerous times we shot ourselves in the foot with false starts. Coach (Beau) Iorfido took away the outside and we were forced to go inside. It's about keeping your blocks to the whistle. Those are things that we got to work on for next week.
"The two missed extra points came back to hurt us real bad too," Heindl said. "Those are the breaks of the game, there's a lot of football to be played and we'll get ready for Curwensville."
The opening 11 minutes of the game looked like it would be far from a happy ending for the Rams. After the Rams couldn't get a first down on the opening drive of the game, the Elkers took over at their own 45-yard line. MacDonald would uncork a long throw to Jaques down the left side which went for a 57-yard touchdown catch and a 6-0 lead. The extra point was missed.
Johnsonburg would get two first downs on their next drive but the drive stalled out at the Ridgway 28-yard line. Ridgway would take the ball and go 71 yards for another touchdown. Zac McKnight would aid the Elkers' cause with a 26-yard run and MacDonald found Delhunty on a 21-yard screen play which set the Elkers up at the Rams' 21-yard line. Four plays later, MacDonald would take it in himself for a 2-yard touchdown run for a 12-0 lead. Ridgway would run a fake field goal on the conversion but the pass from Jaques into the end zone went incomplete as the Elkers took a 12-0 lead into the second quarter.
After a Johnsonburg punt, the game turned in the Rams' direction as Devon Zilcoski would scoop up a fumble and take it 36 yards for a touchdown to cut the Ridgway lead to 12-7.
"I think we were down and out," Schreiber said. "That big play they got on our cornerback, (Jaques' touchdown) because that's been a revolving door, they got that one and I think we were down. I think they just got the confidence in them. That's a turnover we needed. That was the spark."
Heindl said with Delhunty out of the game for the moment with an injury, the fumble was an unfortunate break for the Elkers.
"We had a new fullback out there with Sam Delhunty having to go out with an injury," Heindl said. "Those are the breaks of the game. It's not an excuse, the next guy's got to go in and we move on."
The Elkers appeared to have a big play on the start of their next drive but a McKnight run was called back due to a holding penalty. Ridgway would recover and pick up a first down. Wickett would have a 13-yard run later in the drive from the 45-yard line and then have a 15-yard personal foul tacked on which set the Elkers up at the Johnsonburg 27-yard line. A false start penalty would back up Ridgway on first down and the Elkers never recovered, turning the ball over on downs four plays later.
After the teams exchanged punts, Johnsonburg would lose six yards on their next series. Johnsonburg would run a fake punt on 4th-and-16 from the 35-yard line but Sheldon could only pick up two yards.
A holding penalty on a 3rd-and-2 for the Elkers doomed the drive as Ridgway turned it over. Ridgway took a 12-7 lead into halftime and had the edge in total offense, 199-55 after two quarters.
Ridgway went three-and-out to start the second half. Johnsonburg would get good starting field position at the Ridgway 48-yard line. Three pass plays later, the Rams were in the end zone. Kocjancic first found David Redmond for an 18-yard completion to the Ridgway 30-yard line. Redmond had two catches for 32 yards.
Kocjancic then would strike with a 15-yard pass connection to senior wide receiver Caleb Garvey, putting the Rams in the red zone. Garvey led the Rams with 66 receiving yards and five receptions.
"I'm happy for the seniors, they all really stepped up. Davey Redmond, Caleb Garvey, Kyle Sheldon, they stepped up and they played," Schreiber said. "We've been talking about it for three weeks now, somebody else has to step up and those kids stepped up and played a whale of a football game for us."
Kocjancic then rolled to his left and hit Mitchell Holmberg for a 15-yard touchdown which would give the Rams a 13-12 lead which turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
"They were playing zone," Schreiber said. "Our wide receivers were sitting down inside that zone. Frank just found them."
Johnsonburg continued the momentum on the next Ridgway drive as Sheldon intercepted a pass from MacDonald to set the Rams up at the Ridgway 45-yard line. Johnsonburg's drive was doomed from the start as the Rams had a holding penalty which turned out to be a 17-yard loss after the call was made seven yards in the backfield. Johnsonburg would punt.
The Rams had a chance to add to the lead in the fourth quarter as Johnsonburg put together a solid drive. Garvey converted a 3rd-and-10 from their own 24-yard line with a 14-yard catch from a throw from Holmberg. Garvey then caught an 11-yard pass from Kocjancic for another first down. An intentional grounding call put the Rams in a precarious position at 2nd-and-25 from the 34-yard line. Sheldon caught an 8-yard pass from Holmberg which left the Rams at 3rd-and-17. A trick play left Holmberg throwing to Sheldon for a 29-yard completion and a first down.
Garvey would then catch his third pass of the drive with a 12-yard reception for another first down. From there, Ridgway's defense was able to hold off Johnsonburg as Kocjancic threw incomplete on 4th-and-4 from the Ridgway 11-yard line.
Ridgway (1-5, 0-3 AML South) is scheduled to play at Curwensville (5-1, 2-1 AML South) next Friday for a 7 p.m. matchup. Johnsonburg (2-4, 1-2 AML South) is scheduled to play at Kane (3-3, 1-2 AML South) next Friday for a 7 p.m. game.