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Class 2A title preview: Elkers look for third straight crown in rematch with Rovers

KARNS CITY, Pa. — Ridgway and Brockway will face off for the District 9 Class 2A title at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Karns City High School. 

(Photo: Peter Downer of Brockway (left) and Paul Gresco of Ridgway will try to quarterback their respective teams to a D9 Class 2A title. Photos by Jared Bakaysa)

The top-seeded Elkers (10-1) and second-seeded Rovers (9-2) battle for a title in a rematch of their September game won 20-7 by Ridgway at Varischetti Field in Brockway.

The winner advances to the PIAA quarterfinals later this week against either District 10 champion Wilmington, who beat Chestnut Ridge Saturday.

Last week, the Rovers turned in a convincing 38-18 win over Brookville as they forced six turnovers and jumped on the Raiders early and often. It was the opposite for the Elkers, who trailed Moniteau 7-0 going into the fourth quarter before scoring twice for a 15-7 win.

In their first game, the Elkers outgained the Rovers, 237-189. Matt Dush scored two touchdowns, one on a 43-yard punt return. The Rovers’ lone touchdown came on Peter Downer’s pass to Ben Glasl. Tyler Serafini ran for 80 yards on 16 carries while Jon Wood was lost late in the first half to an injury.

Wood came up big against the Raiders with 163 yards on 10 carries with an 88-yard TD run along with a TD reception and two interceptions on defense. He’s up to 656 yards rushing and seven TDs and leads the team in receiving (30-444, 7 TDs) while Serafini is at 1,133 yards and four TDs.

Downer (101-for-199, 1,645 yards, 19 TDs, 9 Ints.) has thrown for over 1,600 yards, putting him just over 3,600 yards (3,604) for his career.

Meanwhile, the Elkers rank only behind Smethport in points per game allowed (10.3 to 7.6) thanks to one of the best defensive units in the district. And they’ve done it the past four games without their injured all-state linebacker/running back Evan Furlong.

In last week’s come-from-behind win over Moniteau, the Elkers revved themselves in the fourth quarter after getting outgained 221-34 through the first three quarters and scored twice to get by the Warriors. Gabe Watts, who ran for 116 yards, scored on a 7-yard TD run to put the Elkers up for good, then Jake Wickett ran for a 3-yard run late in the game to set the final.

The Elkers, like the Rovers, have enjoyed a bulky turnover ratio that’s led to their success. Both teams have forced a ton of turnovers, the Rovers 34 and the Elkers 28. Ridgway’s Daunte Allegretto has seven interceptions while Austin Green has recovered four fumbles.

Defensively, Robert Briggs (9.0) leads the unit in tackles per game while Furlong averaged 7.7 in his seven games on the field. Damon Kelley (6.6) has a team-high nine sacks.

All of that has taken pressure off the Elkers offense, which averages 293 yards per game — 178 on the ground and 115 passing. Watts (94-611, 8 TDs) and Wickett (89-465, 8 TDs) lead the running game while quarterback Paul Gresco (105-for-163, 1,196 yards, 11 TDs, 8 Ints.) has passed for nearly 1,200 yards.

Allegretto (13-305, 3 TDs), Green (20-261, 5 TDs) and Isaac Schloder (23-244, 3 TDs) are Gresco’s top receiving targets.

The Elkers’ lone loss this year was a 28-11 setback at Brookville on Oct. 19. The Rovers haven’t lost since a two-game losing streak midway through the season. They lost to the Elkers, then 34-13 at Bradford before starting their current five-game winning streak.

Ridgway is looking for its third straight district title, winning the last two years in Class 1A before bumping up a class for the new cycle this year. The Elkers beat Curwensville, 9-7, last year after routing Elk County Catholic 42-13 in 2016.

The Rovers are looking for their first crown since winning the 2010 Class 2A title in a 50-0 win over Brookville. Since then, they dropped back-to-back Class 1A title games in 2014 and 2015 to Kane (33-14 and 21-17).