CLARION, Pa. – No it really was just the Farrell Steelers that Ridgway ran into in the PIAA Class 1A Quarterfinals Friday night at Clarion University’s Memorial Stadium.
(Cover photo: Ridgway head coach Mark Heindl talks to his team after Friday’s game)
It only seemed like the Pittsburgh Steelers the way the Elkers were dominated on both sides of the ball in a season-ending 36-0 loss to the perennial state powerhouse.
Farrell outgained Ridgway 457 yards to 68 and had 23 first downs to the Elkers four, and the game was pretty much over when Isaac Clarke, who transferred to the school from Baltimore prior to the season, hit Jourdan Townsend in stride for a 73-yard scoring pass 19 seconds into the game.
“That’s a great football team,” Ridgway head coach Mark Heindl said. “Speed, you can’t coach speed. Credit to our kids. We could have folded our tents a couple of times. But they held strong and played like champs until the fourth quarter. That is all we can ask for. I can’t say how proud I am of my kids. We are district champions, and to be playing past Thanksgiving that’s a little icing on the cake. Things didn’t go our way, but best of luck to Farrell, and I can’t thank our seniors enough.”
Ridgway’s compete level wasn’t in question. But the Elkers really never had an answer for Clarke or Townsend, who both are in the midst of record-setting seasons.
Watch game highlights. Video and highlight package by Shane Lux and Bruce Lux
Clarke completed his first seven passes – two for touchdowns – on his way to an 11 of 16 night for 235 yards and the two scores becoming the first Farrell quarterback to throw at least 30 touchdowns in a year, while Townsend had nine catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns setting both the District 10 single-season touchdown reception mark and the single-season receiving mark breaking a record set earlier this season by Franklin’s Brandon Johnson, although Johnson did it in nine games while it has taken Townsend 13 contests. Townsend also had an interception on defense, one of three picks on the night for Farrell, although for the first time this year he didn’t return an interception for a touchdown – he had been 4-for-4 on the year in picks for six.
Christian Lewis gave the Steelers the trifecta of 100-yard performances running for 115 yards and a 37-yard touchdown on 11 carries, while Tymir Green chipped in 14 totes for 69 yards and the final two Farrell touchdowns.
“They are very athletic,” Heindl said. “There is a reason last year they were in the Western Finals and two years ago they were in the state finals. They are going to make a press next week to make another run at the state championship (Farrell plays the winner of the WPIAL title game being played Saturday between Jeannette and Imani Christian).”
Ridgway won the opening loss but elected to defer to the second half, and that turned out to set the tone for the entire game when Clarke went up top to Townsend streaking down the middle of the field on the game’s first offensive play for the 73-yard strike.
“We came here, we thought we had a good plan,” Heindl said. “But when we came in and they hit that first play off the bat …”
To Ridgway’s credit, despite the opening shot from Farrell and the lack of any offense – things were so tough up front for the Elkers Heindl abandoned using 1,000-yard rusher Neil MacDonald (3 carries, 8 yards; 1 catch, 5 yards) at running back and instead moved MacDonald to the slot using Evan Furlong (7 carries, 16 yards) instead at running back with quarterback Johnny Mitchell (3-for-14 passing, 17 yards, 3 interceptions; 9 carries, 27 yards) taking most of the snaps out of the shotgun – it didn’t let the game get out of hand until late in the first half.
In fact, it stopped a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-2 from the Ridgway 29 on the Steelers second drive, and also forced a turnover on downs at the Ridgway 41 on fourth Farrell drive of the game.
But back-to-back Mitchell interceptions late in the second quarter turned into 14 points and turned a 14-0 Farrell lead with four minutes to go in the half into a 28-0 advantage at the half.
After Townsend had given the Steelers a 14-0 lead on a 19-yard catch late in the first quarter, Farrell had the turnover on downs at the Ridgway 41 on their first possession of the second quarter.
But after Ridgway picked up its first first down of the game on a 12-yard Mitchell to Furlong pass that was followed two plays later by a 6-yard Mitchell run to the Farrell 35, Townsend picked off Mitchell’s third-down pass inside the 20 and returned it to the Farell 38-yard line.
The Steelers needed just five plays to score on a 37-yard Lewis run with Lewis covering the final 44 yards of the drive on the ground to make it 20-0 with 3:50 left in the half.
Ridgway’s next possession found the Elkers at their 45 with a first down following a 3-yard run by Furlong. But Mitchell tried to throw deep, and Juwon Samuels intercepted the pass at the Farrell 24 returning it 14 yards to the 38 with 1:51 left in the half.
It took the Steelers just four plays to cover the 62 yards with Townsend somehow getting behind three Ridgway defenders for a 57-yard gain to the Ridgway 4, and Green bulling his way into the end zone from there with 30 seconds to play before halftime making it 28-0 after a 2-point pass to Townsend.
Ridgway finally looked to have life when Aaron Hinton returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards to the Farrell 30, but two holding calls on the Elkers pushed them back 31 yards, and facing a first-and-41 at its 39, Ridgway ran out the half on an 8-yard run by Furlong.
Farrell then put the Mercy Rule into action on its first drive of the second half when Green concluded a 10-play, 67-yard drive with another 4-yard scoring run with 5:20 to play in the third quarter making the score 36-0 when Townsend caught his second 2-point conversion pass.
The Steelers then did their best to run out the clock on their next possession going on a 15-play, 53-yard drive that ate up 9:14 off the clock before backup quarterback Ray Raver fumbled a snap that was recovered by Mitchell.
Ridgway then moved from its 42 to the Farrell 34 against the Steelers backups, but the drive stalled when Mitchell was picked off by Notorious Atwood at the Farrell 27 with 1:52 left.
“Credit our kids,” Heindl said. “Nobody expected us to be here tonight with the big injury to Joey (Elinksi) in the early part of the year (and) three losses by 11 points. Our kids battled. That is all you can ask for.”
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