DUBOIS, Pa. – Matt Dush racked up 172 yards on offense and scored a pair of touchdowns to help top-seeded and defending champion Ridgway defeat fifth-seeded Karns City, 34-27, in the District 9 Class 2A Semifinals at E.J. Mansell Stadium in DuBois Saturday afternoon.
Dush had 45 yards rushing on seven carries with a score while adding six receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The longest scoring play of the game was made by Dush, who caught a nice pass from quarterback Paul Gresco and broke a pair of tackle attempts to score from 52 yards out to put the Elkers up 28-20 with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
“It was an inside-out move,” Dush said. “I broke the defender, put up my gloves hoping my quarterback would see them. He made a great play, and I took it to the house.”
Watch Dush’s full postgame interview.
Along with Dush, Gresco had a great offensive day going 17-of-21 for 291 yards and a touchdown while adding four carries for 12 yards.
“Paul is the heart and soul of our offense,” Ridgway head coach Mark Heindl, whose team is looking for a fourth straight District 9 title after winning 1A titles in 2016 and 2017, said. “He knows where the kids should be, not only his but the other 10 guys on the field. He’s very calm and composed. It’s a testament to him and his work ethic.”
After the Dush touchdown, Karns City tried to answer back but a holding call killed the momentum of the Gremlins drive as they stalled out and failed on a fourth-down attempt at the Ridgway 25.
“Our defense has been pretty tough the past few years,” Heindl said. “They out physicaled us, and numerous times today we could’ve broken defensively. But that big stop in the fourth quarter, I thought, changed the momentum.”
Ridgway took the momentum and took full control of the game with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that extended the lead to 34-20 with 4:04 left in the game.
Rather than settle for a field goal, the Elkers decided to go for it on fourth-and-3, and it resulted in Gresco finding Austin Green in the end zone for a 14-yard passing touchdown.
With 1:37 left in the game, Garing added his second touchdown on the day with a 6-yard run.
Karns City attempted an on-side kick, and no clear signal was made right away before the officials declared a Ridgway player had recovered the kick despite a Karns City player coming away with the ball.
An explanation given to D9Sports.com prior to the second game Saturday said that the one official clearly saw a Ridgway player recover the ball and be down on the field making the play dead before a Karn City player recovered.
The Gremlins defense was able to get the ball back with 40 seconds left after forcing the Elkers to go three and out. But the last-gasp drive was unsuccessful as Karns City only managed to make it out to their own 40-yard line as time expired.
The game didn’t start out as a shootout with neither team scoring in the first quarter.
But that all changed in the second quarter and the contest went to halftime tied at 14.
Ridgway broke the ice three minutes into the second quarter to go up 7-0 after a 25-yard Dush run.
Karns City responded with a nine-play, 61-yard drive that was capped off by Luke Garing on a 1-yard run with 5:24 left in the half.
Quarterback Anthony Kamenski was a large part of that drive.
Three plays prior to the score, the Gremlins converted a fourth-and-3 at the Ridgway 10-yard line with a 7-yard Kamenski keeper.
Jake Wickett helped the Elkers take the lead back at 14-7 with a 7-yard rushing touchdown with two minutes left in the half.
The Gremlins were not content on playing conservative the last two minutes, as Kamenski found Kaden Scherer in the end zone to tie the game with 40 seconds left.
Kamenski was 3-for-3 for 62 yards and rushed for 10 yards on their final drive of the first half.
Ridgway opened up the third quarter with another rushing touchdown.
Wickett found the end zone again after a 9-yard run to put the Elkers up 21-14.
Once again, Karns City answered with a 75-yard drive capped off by a 3-yard Kamenski score. A missed extra point attempt that was caused by a bobbled hold kept the Gremlins from tying the game and left Ridgway ahead, 21-20.
The Elkers took advantage of the lead and went up 28-20 with the 52-yard reception touchdown by Dush.
Kamenski finished the game with 154 yards on the ground on 26 carries while going 6-for-13 passing for 109 yards. Scherer was the main target as he hauled in all six passes thrown to him.
For the Elkers, Green (4 receptions, 67 yards) and Alex Bon (4 receptions, 53 yards) were both factors in the passing game. Wickett added 29 rushing yards on seven carries and caught two passes for 46 yards. Gabe Watts added 21 rushing yards on seven attempts.
Ridgway will take on Clarion in the District 9 title game at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at Mansell Stadium. The Elkers beat the Bobcats, 42-0, Oct. 4, in Ridgway.
“At the end of the day, going to four straight championships says a lot about us,” Heindl said. “There’s been a lot of good football played over the years in all of District 9 and they have a chance to do something special next week.”
“It’s everything,” Dush added. “That’s what we work for every year and we love being there.”