Apollo-Ridge continues to fight despite shorthanded roster

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021 | 10:08 AM


After the Apollo-Ridge footall team made its first WPIAL semifinal appearance last season, a number of quality players graduated, and the Vikings had key positions to fill.

It has been as hard to keep the players on the field as it was to find the replacements.

Apollo-Ridge’s season has been marked by a number of injuries, illnesses and quarantines.

“We had to replace a lot of skill kids from last year,” Vikings coach John Skiba said. “We still have some covid issues to deal with. We had a couple of kids quarantining this week. It’s like non-stop. But that’s no excuse. We still have to get ready to play.”

After a 28-14 loss to Shady Side Academy Saturday, Apollo-Ridge is 1-1 in the Allegheny Conference, 2-4 overall.

In fact, a Sept. 17 game against Freeport was called off because of covid issues. The Apollo-Ridge Middle School was closed Sept. 9 because half of the 280 students were under quarantine for possible virus exposure.

Besides all that, the schedule has been difficult. The Vikings have played Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Trib HSSN’s No. 2 Class A team just a few weeks ago; Avonworth, the No. 3 Class 3A team; and Greensburg Central Catholic, the current No. 4 Class A team.

As if that wasn’t enough, Apollo-Ridge plays No. 2 Class 2A Serra Catholic at home Friday, then follows with a home game against No. 5 Steel Valley before concluding the regular season at Ligonier Valley, a team that started 5-0.

Injuries also played a part in the Vikings slow start.

Sophomore Karter Schrock, an understudy last season to quarterback Klay Fitzroy, was eager to take over signal-calling duties. But he suffered an ankle injury against Avonworth and missed several games. Junior running back/all-conference linebacker Nick Curci, who earned some playing time behind Valley News Dispatch Offensive Player of the Year Logan Harmon, was sidelined with pneumonia.

Against Greensburg Central Catholic, receiver Gage Johnston played quarterback, and two-way lineman Bradey Schrock, Karter’s brother, was listed as the second-string quarterback and burst through the Centurions on a short-yardage touchdown.

Lineman and captain Greg Klingensmith is one of the few starting holdovers from last season.

“This week, we had some guys out with quarantine,” Klingensmith said after Saturday’s game. “But we have to be able to adapt. There’s no question. We just have to do better. I know we lost a lot of guys, but we did a lot of team bonding over the summer. It’s difficult, but we’re all trying our best to bring it together.”

Apollo-Ridge, however, will push on.

“We’ve got a short week, playing on a Saturday afternoon,” Skiba said. “So we have to focus and get ready for the No. 2 team, Serra, who didn’t play last week after getting a forfeit. It’s not an easy hill to climb.”

The Vikings fell behind 21-0 on Saturday before rallying to make it 21-14 early in the fourth quarter.

Said Klingensmith: “When we came in at halftime, I told all the guys to relax. It’ll be fine. If you play tense, you’re not going to play well. We just have to work together and we showed that in the second half.”

Apollo-Ridge’s game against Serra last year was called off because of covid issues and both schools finished with undefeated conference records.

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