Apollo-Ridge football team looks at positives after 1st defeat

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Saturday, September 21, 2019 | 10:41 PM


While not happy with the way things turned out in Friday’s battle of the unbeatens between his Apollo-Ridge football team and Allegheny Conference foe Avonworth, Vikings coach John Skiba also talked in positive terms about the opportunities his team has coming out of the 42-14 loss.

Included in that is the open path towards earning a spot in the WPIAL playoffs.

“We will be better,” Skiba said. “The guys will make sure of it.”

The Vikings fell to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play with Friday’s home game against Shady Side Academy on the docket. Avonworth remained unblemished at 5-0, and it took over possession of first place in the conference at 3-0.

“We have three games left in the conference, and we have to get this thing back together,” Skiba said. “Shady Side (Academy) is a massively important game we need to have if we have thoughts of making the playoffs. I am excited about the opportunity to play a good football team on Friday, and it’s nice we are home.”

The players gathered for their usual film session Saturday morning and pored over Friday’s game for ways to improve.

“We took a look at it, and we’re moving on really fast from it,” Skiba said. “Avonworth is a really good football team with a lot of weapons, but we also shot ourselves in the foot a number of times. We have to clean up some things, but we can’t sit there and look at this and that over and over again. We have to be ready to get better, stating with Monday’s practice.”

Shady Side Academy finds itself in a similar situation. After three wins to start the season, including a pair of conference victories, the Indians are smarting after Friday’s 54-14 nonconference loss to Neshannock. Skiba knows they, too, will be highly motivated to get back on track.

“The maturation process with a number of these kids, you can see that because they are going to fight their tails off,” Skiba said. “A couple of years ago, they might have thought, after something like this, that they would’ve been done and would have no more fight left in them. They understand now that it’s not the end of the world.”

Little worked for the Vikings in the first quarter Friday as Avonworth jumped out to a 21-0 lead. The Antelopes defense forced an interception, a turnover on downs and two punts in the opening stanza.

“The guys could’ve given up right there, but they didn’t,” Skiba said. “They still tried to make plays and looked for ways to get back in the game.”

Apollo-Ridge caught a break early in the second quarter as it recovered a muffed punt. The Vikings took advantage as junior Jake Fello connected with fellow junior Klay Fitzroy for a 34-yard touchdown on fourth-and-4.

Avonworth extended its lead back to 21 points a couple of minutes later on a 44-yard run from Kyros Thorpe. The Antelopes finished with 271 rushing yards.

The Vikings had a chance to close the deficit to two scores late in the half as they drove nearly six minutes from their own 24 to inside the Avonworth 10.

But the Antelopes defense held and forced a turnover on downs at the 5 in the final seconds before the break.

Fello found Fitzroy again late in the third quarter. This time, the touchdown covered 20 yards.

Fello finished with 124 passing yards, and Fitzroy caught six passes for 95 yards.

“We watched the film and are confident we will clean up the little things we messed up,” Fello said. “Coach Skiba made sure we understood that we have a lot to play for. We have to win the next three conference games to get a home playoff game. The energy is definitely there.”

The Apollo-Ridge run game was held to 118 yards, well under its 215.8 season average. Logan Harmon gained 52 yards on 13 carries.

Some of the younger Vikings players got a chance in the fourth quarter. Freshman Nick Curci carried the ball seven times for 36 yards on the game’s final drive.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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