Apollo-Ridge stifles Freeport in nonconference victory

Friday, September 18, 2020 | 10:44 PM

On its first play from scrimmage in Friday’s nonconference matchup with Apollo-Ridge, the Freeport offense went to the air.

Vinnie Clark found Brady Stivenson wide open in the secondary, and the 56-yard touchdown completion stunned the Vikings.

But the Apollo-Ridge defense clamped down from there, and the Vikings pulled away in the second half for a 48-14 victory.

“We started with a bad series on offense where we didn’t finish, and then they hit us with that big play,” Vikings coach John Skiba said.

“I told the guys that they needed to understand that they were in a game. We came off a big win last week (44-7 over Ligonier Valley), but I knew we just couldn’t walk in here and get a win without playing well and executing on both sides of the ball. Freeport fights, and they always have. They are a well-coached program. We know we have to be prepared, and we found ourselves in a battle in the first half.”

Apollo-Ridge (2-0) led 13-7 at halftime and scored 26 unanswered points in the third quarter to take control.

Nick Curci rambled 17 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and the score put the mercy rule into effect as the Vikings began to sub out starters on both sides of the ball.

“We came out in the second half and were ready to play,” senior running back Logan Harmon said. “We were able to move the ball on offense the way we know how, and the defense made some nice stops.”

Apollo-Ridge finished with 489 total yards of offense, including 328 on the ground, and held Freeport to 133 total yards.

The scoring run began as Jake Fello found Klay Fitzroy for 32 yards to the end zone at the 9-minute, 6-second mark of the third quarter.

The Vikings defense created short fields, and the offense capitalized. Harmon scored on runs of 2 and 14 yards, and Keighton Reese added a 10-yard run in the quarter to put Apollo-Ridge up 39-7.

“That’s what we like, having the game close like that going into halftime,” said Freeport coach John Gaillot, who will guide his team in practice this week in advance of its Allegheny Conference matchup at Derry on Friday.

“I have to look at the film. We just came out (in the third quarter) and just couldn’t execute.”

Ben Lane added a touchdown for Freeport (1-1) in the fourth quarter on an 80-yard run. He finished with 63 yards on 16 carries.

Harmon switched from his normal No. 44 jersey to No. 47 for the second half, but he didn’t slow down. He collected 96 of his 162 rushing yards in the third quarter.

He tallied three touchdowns overall as a 1-yard run late in the first quarter gave the Vikings the lead for good.

Fello completed 9 of 19 passes for 161 yards and the one touchdown and added 44 rushing yards on five attempts.

Fitzroy caught five passes for 105 yards, Curci added 72 yards on seven carries, and Reese, who got Apollo-Ridge on the board with a 3-yard run in the first quarter, ended with five carries for 30 yards.

“That is a really mature group,” Gaillot said. “Those guys have been together for a long time. My hat’s off to them. They are very talented. They are going to go far.”

Apollo-Ridge returns to Owens Field next Friday for a nonconference game against Burrell.

“We feel we are a pretty solid group, but we know there are a number of things we can improve on,” Harmon said. “We just need to always come out strong in the first half and set the tone.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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