Big plays help unbeaten Ligonier Valley past Elizabeth Forward

Friday, September 3, 2021 | 11:53 PM

Ligonier Valley made several big plays and turned the momentum to its favor early in taking down Elizabeth Forward 26-14 in nonconference play Friday night.

The Rams (2-0) scored a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, a 68-yard touchdown pass from Haden Sierocky to Grant Dowden.

Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel was not leaving anything in the cupboard for this showdown between his Class 2A team and one of the better WPIAL Class 3A teams.

“It was a great play. Haden hit Grant, who’s a heck of an athlete. He got the ball in space, and he was gone,” Beitel said. “It set the tone, and we just rode the momentum. We knew that (Elizabeth Forward) is a phenomenal football program. We were not going to hold anything back in the gameplan. We were going to take what they gave us and make the most of it.”

Sierocky had a solid performance, completing six passes — two for touchdowns — for 182 yards. He also had 57 yards rushing. Five receivers caught passes as tailback Nick Beitel had 104 total yards.

“(Ligonier Valley) has players all over the field. They’ve got a good running back, a quarterback that can run, receivers and a physical offensive line,” Elizabeth Forward coach Mike Collodi said. “They’re a good football team. We knew it all week. They took it to us tonight.”

The Rams defense made life a huge challenge for Warriors quarterback Zion White. He was under pressure all night and threw two first-half interceptions. Ligonier Valley defensive end Jacob Hay had four of his team’s nine sacks.

“Our defense was lights out. They were flying all over the place,” Beitel said. “Our two ends harassed the quarterback all night.”

“We just need to go back to the drawing board,” Collodi said. “We need to get to work, just get better and correct mistakes, which we will. We just have to play better.”

EF (1-1) was able to respond to the Rams’ opening score with a seven-play scoring drive capped by a 1-yard run by DaVontay Brownfield. Elizabeth Forward appeared to rebound, stopping Ligonier Valley on their next possession.

After exchanging possessions, the Rams took over at midfield after an Elizabeth Forward punt. On the first play, Sierocky dumped a screen pass off to Nick Beitel who took the ball to the EF 1-yard line. On the next play, Sierocky snuck the ball into the endzone for a 13-7 advantage.

On the ensuing kickoff, another big play did Elizabeth Forward in. This time a Zach Boyd 92-yard kickoff return touchdown was wiped out on an illegal block penalty. The following EF drive went three-and-out.

Ligonier Valley took over after a punt and embarked on a 11-play, 63-yard drive. Sierocky found Matt Marinchak for a 20-yard touchdown connection. The two-point try failed, but the Rams still led, 19-7.

Another Warriors three-and-out gave LV the ball back. This time, it took the Rams just six plays. Sierocky took off on a designed quarterback run for a 33-yard score. The lead was 26-7, which held through halftime.

Elizabeth Forward had several opportunities to get back into the game in the second half. On the first play of the third quarter, Brownfield caught a screen pass and scampered 65 yards to the LV 5-yard line. But the play was called back on a penalty. Brownfield also dropped a sure touchdown pass later in the quarter and receiver Kelly Rush could not pull in a long pass in the fourth quarter.

“It is what it is, we can’t make those mistakes and penalties,” Coloddi said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit, but that’s a really good team in Ligonier Valley.”

White converted a fourth down inside the LV 10-yard line with a screen pass to Brownfield, who battled his way into the endzone for the game’s last tally. White finished 10 of 19 for 124 yards with 33 yards rushing.

Elizabeth Forward visits West Mifflin next week. Ligonier Valley hosts Jeannette.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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