By Shane Lux
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Farrell’s defense held Ridgway to 32 yards of total offense, and the Steelers offense and special teams did just enough to help them earn a 20-7 win over the Elkers in the PIAA Class 1A quarterfinals Friday night at Slippery Rock’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
(Cover photo of Ridgway’s Neil MacDonald. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)
Farrell’s offense wasn’t much better than Ridgway’s gaining just 258 yards without star running back Braxton Chapman, but the Steelers had three big plays that led to their points, including a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jourdan Townsend, who scored twice, midway through the third quarter to make it 20-0.
“Our kids came to play,” Heindl said. “Our kids came out and battled in the second half. We played to our potential in the second half. Three big plays they made. The big run there in the first quarter. The big pass at the end of the first half and the punt return.”
The big run Heindl referred to was a 45-yard scamper on the Steelers second play from scrimmage that took the ball from their 26 to the Ridgway 29 and set up a fourth-and-goal 15-yard touchdown pass from Kyi Wright to Townsend for the game’s first score. Wright, who had 121 total yards of offense (35 rushing, 86 passing) scrambled in the backfield before finding Townsend with the scoring pass.
The pass came late in the half when Farrell took over at its 20-yard line with 3:16 left in the half.
Four plays into the drive Wright hit a wide-open Lewis for 45 yards to Elker 4-yard line. Two plays later Lewis, who had 79 yards rushing in place of Chapman, scored from three yards out with just 59 seconds remaining in the first half. Wright hit Townsend with the 2-point conversion, as the Steelers took a 14-0 lead into the locker room.
Farrell’s defense completely shut down Ridgway in the half holding the Elkers to just five yards and two first downs, one of which came on a Farrell defensive holding penalty.
Any real chance of a Ridgway comeback pretty much ended after Townsend scored his second touchdown of the night on the punt return 4:01 into the third quarter.
But Ridgway kept fighting as a Neil MacDonald kickoff return set the Elkers up at the Farrell 39-yard line.
Ridgway needed 15 plays to move the ball 26 yards but turned the ball over on downs at the 13-yard line on an incomplete pass by MacDonald. The Elkers did pick up three first downs on the drive converting a pair of fourth downs including a fourth-and-6 early in the drive.
The Elkers had a golden opportunity a few minutes later when Jacob Anderson blocked a Farrell punt setting the Elkers up at the Steelers 8-yard line.
But Farrell’s defense again rose to the occasion and forced a four-and-out which was helped when Ridgway started the drive with a false start penalty giving the Steelers the ball back at their 12.
“We were inside the red zone on three different occasions and only came away with seven points,” Heindl said. “But again, for a team that was in the state finals last year, we gave them everything we could.”
Ridgway’s defense kept battling and set up the Elkers lone touchdown when Evan Furlong stripped the ball from Farrell running back Brandon Chambers at the Farrell 15 and returned it 11 yards to the Steelers’ 4-yard line.
An offside penalty against Farrell moved it to the 2-yard line, and MacDonald scored from there cutting the lead to 20-7 with 6:11 to play.
“Our kids are resilient,” Heindl said. “They fought back there. But, at the end of the day, when you don’t score in the red zone it comes back to haunt you.
I couldn’t be any more proud of these guys.”
Ridgway did get the ball back one more time, at its 39 with 2:51 to play, but lost six yards and turned the ball over on downs.
“They’re a very physical football team,” Heindl said. “They’re in the final four right now for a reason.”
Farrell will play the WPIAL champion, either Clairton or Jeanette (they play at Noon Saturday) in the semifinals next week. The Steelers are 10-3 on the year while Ridgway finished 10-3 winning its first District 9 title since 1989 and making its first-ever PIAA Playoff appearance.
Editor’s note – Chris Rossetti contributed to this story
FARRELL 20, RIDGWAY 7
Score by Quarter
Ridgway 0 0 0 7 – 7
Farrell 6 8 6 0 – 20
F – Jourdan Townsend 15 yd pass from Kyi Wright (Wright pass failed), 6:48
F – Christian Lewis 3 yd run (Townsend from Wright), :59
F – Townsend 57 yd punt return (Wright pass failed), 7:59
R – Neil McDonald 2 yd run (Daunte Allegretto kick), 6:11
5 First Downs 12
33-26 Rushes-Yards 42-172
6 Passing Yards 86
4-13-1 Comp-Att-Int 6-9-0
46-32 Plays-Yards 51-258
1-0 Fumbles-Lost 1-1
5-35 Penalties-Yards 15-103
5-37.6 Punts-Avg. 4-21.2
22:49 Time of Possession 25:11
RUSHING – Ridgway: Neil MacDonald 15-25, Johnny Mitchell 13-11, James Winslow 2-4, Jacob Zimmerman 2-negative 3, Daunte Allegretto 1-negative 11. Farrell: Christian Lewis 14-79, Brandon Chambers 14-43, Kyi Wright 8-35, Tymir Green 2-9, Pap Keeler 3-6, Team 1-0.
PASSING – Ridgway: Johnny Mitchell 2-for-6, 0 yards, 1 interception. Daunte Allegretto 2-for-5, 6 yards. Neil MacDonald 0-for-1. Team 0-for-1. Farrell: Kyi Wright 6-for-8, 86 yards, 1 touchdown. Brandon Chambers 0-for-1.
RECEIVING – Ridgway: Jacob Zimmerman 2-3, James Winslow 2-3. Farrell: Jourdan Townsend 3-30, Christian Lewis 1-45, Tymir Green 1-8, Brandon Chambers 1-3.
INTERCEPTIONS – Farrell: Elijah Harper