On October 23 last year, the Ridgway Elkers saw their run of four-straight District 9 championships end in Brookville with a 49-15 semifinal playoff loss.

The defeat ended a frustrating COVID-19 shortened season that saw them finish 3-3 and lose two-straight for the first time since Curwensville and Kane beat them in October of 2017. The week before the season-ender, tonight’s foe St. Marys beat them 35-21 in Ridgway. The Dutch won earlier in the season 34-7 at home.

St. Marys breezed through their 2020 schedule beating Ridgway and Kane twice and Bradford before losing 41-30 in the District 9 Class 3A championship to Clearfield.

It’s a fresh start for both at Dutch Country Stadium tonight (7 p.m.).

“The kids are excited, and we’re excited. To see the work and the progression from last year into this year and to see how they’ve grown together from heat acclimation through the scrimmage has been incredible to see,” said Elkers head coach Mark Heindl.

The excited players include a solid senior class with starters Jonathan Hinton, Eric Salberg, Camron Marciniak, Dan Park, Domenic Allegretto, Hunter Wall, Tyler Merritt, Kenny McKenna, Wil Howard, and Braden Renaud. Seniors Anna Duffield and Nate McCurdy were also part of the 2019 District 9 Class AA championship team that erased a 28-14 halftime deficit to beat Clarion 56-35. Seniors Maurice Bullers and Dylan Goetz, who played last season, and Enoch Aboussou are also in the mix.

 The Elkers also have hard-working underclassmen, and many will be part of the rotation on both offense and defense. Included are juniors Rayce Milliard, Hunter Thompson, Marcus Crowe, Mikey Steis, Aaron Sorg, Buddy Handly, and Ian Fabiano, and sophomores Nick Myers, Cameron Larkin, Timothy Groscup, Brady Heindl, Jackson Kilpeck, Eric Hoffman, Nick Aiello, Dominic Jacobs, Steven Nagle, and AJ Tassone.

Ridgway is looking for a third straight District 9 Large School Division title. Due to COVID, a division schedule was not played last year. However, the Elkers topped the league in its inaugural 2018 season and won it again in 2019.

Division competition includes the Dutch, Kane, Bradford, Brookville, Clarion Central, DuBois, Karns City, Moniteau, and Punxsutawney. Teams will play nine division games. Coaches selected St. Marys as the team to beat at the district’s media day earlier this month. The Elkers finished second.

Tonight’s winner will gain the upper hand in the quest for a division title, but Heindl doesn’t want to blow the opener out of proportion.

“It’s the first game on the schedule, and we take a game-by-game approach. Obviously, if it was a winner take all game, it’s a different scenario, but one game isn’t going to define whoever wins or whoever loses, but it’s going to give them an idea of where they stand after all the hard work put into the last couple weeks.”

Tonight’s game will be broadcast on WKBI – 93.9 FM – B94.

2021 Ridgway Elkers Roster

#1 – Maurice Bullers – Sr – RB,, DB, #2 – Cameron Larkin – So – QB, MLB, #3 – Timothy Groscup – So – WR, S, #4 – Enoch Aboussou – Sr – WR, CB, #5 – Jonathan Hinton – Sr – QB, DB, #6 – Nick Aiello – So – WR, CB, #7 – Jackson Kilpeck – So – WR, DB, #8 – Will Howard – Sr - WR, CB, #10 – Rayce Millard – Jr – RB, LB,  #12 – Eric Hoffman – So – RB, LB, #21 – Hunter Thompson – Jr – TE, OLB, #22 – Tyler Merritt – Sr – TE, OLB, #23 – Eric Salberg – Sr – RB, LB, #24 – Camron Marciniak – Sr – RB, LB, #26 – Domenic Allegretto – Sr – RB, S, #39 – Nate McCurdy – Sr – QB, DB, #41 – Dominic Jacobs – So – WR, DB, #53 – Dan Park – Sr – OL, DE, #55 – Hunter Wall – Sr – G, ILB, #56 – Alex Merritt – So – OL, LB, #58 – Marcus Crowe – Jr – OL, DE, #60 – Mikey Steis – Jr – C, DL, #62 – Dylan Goetz – Sr – OL, LB, #67 – Kenny McKenna – Sr – OL, DL, #68 – Braden Renaud – Sr – OL, DL, #70 – Anna Duffield – Sr – DT, OL, #71 – Ian Fabiano – Jr – OL, DL, #72 – Steven Nagle – Jr – OL, DL, #76 – Brady Heindl – So – OL, DL, #78 – Nick Myes – So – C, DL, #81 – Buddy Handley – Jr – WR, DB, #86 – Aaron Sorg – Jr – TE, DB, #99 – AJ Tassone – So – OL, DL.

Head Coach – Mark Heindl

Assistants – Rick Viglione, Mickey Delhunty, Jack Kifer, Brian Hinton, Scott Salberg, Russ Myers, Scott Salberg, Jim Allegretto

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