Defense, rushing of Reese, Harmon pace Apollo-Ridge past Carlynton

Friday, September 6, 2019 | 10:44 PM

It didn’t happen as fast as Apollo-Ridge would have liked, but, despite four first-half turnovers, the Vikings eventually came away with a 22-7 nonconference victory over Carlynton on Friday at Owens Field in Apollo.

The Vikings moved to 3-0, and Carlynton slid to 2-1.

It was the Logan Harmon and Keighton Reese show offensively for the Vikings, who have more wins this season than all of 2018. The defense also stood out for ninth-year coach John Skiba.

“The defense held us in the whole thing,” Skiba said. “At halftime I went in and challenged them for being soft, and both sides came out in the second half and responded.”

Harmon carried 18 times for 157 yards, notching his second 100-plus-yard game of the season. He also scored a touchdown. Reese ran for 79 yards and two scores on five carries.

“It wasn’t there for either guy early. Carlynton is a good team, and they did some stuff with fronts that we hadn’t seen,” said Skiba. “Logan is going to be that workhorse all the time. He doesn’t come off the field and sometimes looks exhausted, but he busts his tail. Keighton is such a dynamic kid, and that’s the type of game he can have.”

Carlynton scored first, capitalizing on the first of the four first-half fumbles by Apollo-Ridge. The Cougars used three plays to cover 19 yards and scored on a 16-yard touchdown passfrom Elijah Babish to Chauncie Mickens at 1:48 in the first quarter.

The start pleased first-year coach Rich Piccinini.

“We were happy with the start, but we talked with our guys about how we need to learn how to pour it on,” Piccinini said. “We had a chance to pull away and didn’t. Right now, our guys still need to learn how to win. We didn’t quit though, which I appreciate and like to see.”

Apollo-Ridge responded when Cam Bush sacked Babish for a safety. That came at the 4:51 mark of the second. The Vikings quickly scored on offense after the free kick, using a late hit on a good return to spark the scoring drive.

Both plays on the drive were by Harmon, who had runs of 12 yards and 10 yards to give the home team its first lead at 8-7 after the 2-point pass attempt fell incomplete.

Reese scored on touchdown runs of 2 and 12 yards in the second half.

Skiba credited the offensive line with helping to keep the running game persistent.

“It’s like a patchwork offensive line. We’ve got a kid playing center tonight that hasn’t been there before, and we worked with him this week. Those guys have been awesome,” said Skiba. “They battled all night. I’m very happy with them.”

Dallas Paolino led Carlynton with 65 yards rushing on 19 carries. The teams combined for just 70 passing yards: 40 from Apollo-Ridge’s Jake Fello and 30 from Elijah Babish. Both were 4 of 7.

The game stopped in the fourth quarter when Mickens was injured on a first-down run. The medical staff and ambulance took Mickens from the field. Piccinini had no further update beyond saying the doctor said it was a lot of precaution.

“He knew where he was, and he was talking and everything so that’s good to see,” said Piccinini. “They told us precautionary, and I’ll talk to his mom tonight to get a further update.”

The Vikings return to Allegheny Conference play with two straight road games, starting next Friday at East Allegheny, and the Cougars play at the 2018 WPIAL Class 2A runner-up South Side Beaver.

Adjustments were the emphasis for both coaches.

“Apollo-Ridge played a good game,” Piccinini said. “We have to move on, and in the end, the nonconference loss doesn’t hurt us that much. We’ll look forward to section play again next week.”

Said Skiba: “Next week will be a whole different game. I love our fight, and I love our battle. We’ll continue to fight and figure things out to give ourselves a chance to get back into the playoffs, where we should be.”

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