Behind special senior class, Apollo-Ridge headed to WPIAL semifinals for 1st time

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Saturday, October 31, 2020 | 10:23 PM


Apollo-Ridge football coach John Skiba remembers going to a junior high banquet for the group that became his current seniors after they completed an undefeated season.

He told them if the core group of guys such as Logan Harmon, Jake Fello, Klay Fitzroy, Keighton Reese and Dom Reiter stayed together, they could do something special when they became seniors.

Well, that group did something special Friday night as they beat No. 5 Washington, 42-6, helping Apollo-Ridge reach the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals.

“It’s a proud moment to be at Apollo-Ridge,” Skiba said. “This is our first time ever in the semifinals, so that’s huge for us. We’re not used to this.”

Over the past three years, the Vikings (6-0) have been working toward a moment like this. Last season, they went 7-3 but were upset in the first round of the playoffs by New Brighton.

Nevertheless, Apollo-Ridge still had an opportunity to prove itself this year. The covid-19 pandemic wiped out a few games from the schedule, but Apollo-Ridge rolled through its five regular-season games by an average point differential of 37 points, and people still doubted the team.

Before Friday’s game, Skiba told his players to make a statement. They did.

“Before the game, I talked with them about ‘I don’t think you guys have been respected too much, and I think you need to prove something this week so people understand how good you guys can be,’ ” Skiba said. “I think they made that statement tonight, and I hope people look at us that way now.”

Harmon has been at the center of the team’s success. He’s a bull on the defensive side, finishing near the top of the team in tackles since his freshman season, and he’s been the team’s leading rusher each year as well.

After rushing for 248 yards and four touchdowns against Washington, Harmon has 3,317 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns in his career.

“He wears you down, and people make business decisions and they don’t want to stand in front of him anymore because he isn’t going to move,” Skiba said. “There’s no cut to him at all. He’s going to go straight ahead as much as he can. He’s that workhorse, and he just keeps going and we can just keep hammering the ball.”

Harman hasn’t done it alone.

Reese led the team in tackles when they were sophomores, Fello and Fitzroy have split time at quarterback through the years and have played key roles in the offense, and others have contributed to the journey to putting Apollo-Ridge back on the map as well.

“This group of guys has always been a thing,” Harmon said. “Everyone was always talking about it and now we’re here.”

The Vikings have accomplished something no other Apollo-Ridge team has, but that doesn’t mean this special class of seniors is done. With their win Friday, the Vikings set themselves up against No. 1 Beaver Falls.

“I don’t think we got a lot of respect, and people looked at us like they didn’t know how good we are,” Skiba said. “I was sick of hearing ‘Oh, they only played five games. We don’t know how good they are.’ I think we finally proved how good we are, and we are going to go up and battle our tails off against one of the better teams out there. We’ve been up there before so we kind of know them but it’s crazy to even think about it right now.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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