After making statement with playoff win, Ligonier Valley runs into powerful Beaver Falls

Wednesday, November 9, 2022 | 5:50 PM

Ligonier Valley celebrated its first WPIAL playoff win last Friday night — on the bus ride home.

It was loud. It was a good time. The bus was rocking as it pulled out of the parking lot at Offutt Field in Greensburg and made its way eastbound on Route 30.

“They enjoyed it,” Rams coach Roger Beitel said. “But they’re kids. They were all thinking about going fishing or seeing their girlfriends when we got back.

“They’re loose. They’re a really close group, one of the closest we’ve had.”

The seventh-seeded Rams (8-3) held back No. 10 Western Beaver, 27-20, in the Class 2A first round to set up a meeting with a much larger fish: No. 2 seed Beaver Falls (9-1).

The teams meet Friday night at Reeves Field on the campus of Geneva College. The winner advances to the semifinals next week to face the winner of No. 6 Keystone Oaks (9-2) and No. 3 Sto-Rox (8-2).

“We’re going to keep doing our thing,” senior running back and safety Bruce Krieger said. “The win gets our confidence high. That first win is special.”

Beaver Falls has been in the WPIAL finals the last two years, winning a title — its fifth — in 2020, 43-30 over Sto-Rox. It fell last year to Serra Catholic, 35-12.

The playoff win is a statement for Ligonier Valley, which arguably solidified its place as a formidable opponent in District 7. The Rams are here to stay — and win.

Only two off 11 Westmoreland teams that made the playoffs are still alive. The Rams join Latrobe (Class 4A) and Belle Vernon (3A). in the quarterfinals.

“We’re learning and evolving,” Beitel said of his team as it pushes through its third season back in the WPIAL after five decades in District 6. “Our (place in the WPIAL) is for outside people to discuss. We try to tune it all out.

“We’re just enjoying the opportunity. We say, ‘Why not us?’”

Beaver Falls, which averages 36.2 points and allows only 8.2, has been resting with a first-round bye.

Coach Nick Nardone thinks the off time is a good thing for the Tigers, but he said the players have been itching to hit the field again.

“The bye was beneficial in that some of our guys that were banged up had a week to get healthy,” he said, “but I think our kids would have rather played a game (last) Friday.”

The Tigers’ attack is led by dual-threat senior quarterback Jaren Brickner, who has thrown for 1,492 yards and 11 touchdowns. The left-hander also has 634 yards rushing and 14 scores.

“We actually figured he would have more rushing yards, based on the film we’ve seen,” Beitel said. “We’ve seen a few dual-threat quarterbacks, and they’re all different.”

Last year, Brickner (6-1, 192) threw for 2,579 yards and 25 touchdowns, breaking the Tigers’ all-time record for passing yards.

Junior Brixx Rawls has 449 yards rushing, while big-play senior wideout Trey Singleton has 30 receptions for 930 yards and nine TDs.

“We have to stop the big plays and defend against their tendencies,” Beitel said. “We can’t let them do what they want to do. They want to own the C gap. They attack you off tackle.”

Beaver Falls’ primary concern is containing Rams’ senior standout Haden Sierocky, who has rushed for 1,231 yards and 16 TDs on 148 carries and also has 20 receptions for 383 yards and seven scores.

Don’t forget his seven interceptions on defense. Sierocky is one of the most complete players in the classification.

Ligonier Valley hopes to keep the Tigers offense off the field as it runs its Wing-T sets.

“They run the ball very well on offense with several different players,” Nardone said. “Defensively, they cause confusion with different looks and play very hard.”

Senior quarterback Broderick Schreyer has thrown for 765 yards and 12 touchdowns.

A key starter for Ligonier Valley will not play Friday. Senior running back/linebacker Nick Lonas broke his collarbone last week.

“It’s a huge loss,” Beitel said.

Krieger will fill in for Lonas and will have a larger role on both sides of the ball.

Beitel enjoys watching Sierocky power his way through opposing defenses.

“We’ll go as far as he takes us,” Beitel said. “We’re riding our horse.”

Defensively, senior McKinley Shearer leads Ligonier Valley with 114 tackles — 10.4 per game — while senior Mason Mohnkern has 10 sacks.

Beaver Falls’ lone loss came against Beaver, 19-16, in Week 1.

“We don’t know much about (Beaver Falls’ past),” Krieger said. “We have to worry about ourselves.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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