Experienced Apollo-Ridge football team leans on offensive line

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Saturday, October 10, 2020 | 6:21 PM


Apollo-Ridge senior quarterback Jake Fello threw for 142 yards and a touchdown in Friday’s 42-7 Eastern Conference victory over Shady Side Academy at Owens Field.

Senior Keighton Reese caught the touchdown pass from Fello and finished with four catches for 76 yards, and fellow senior Klay Fitzroy added a pair of catches for 66 yards.

In the backfield, senior Logan Harmon pounded his way to 123 yards on 16 carries and scored on runs of 10, 4, 5 and 6 yards.

While Fello said the numbers put up are exciting to see, the success of the depth at the skill positions and the team’s potent offensive attack this season wouldn’t be possible without the strength, quickness, knowledge and experience of those up front along the offensive line.

“Honestly, they are the biggest part of our offense right now,” said Fello, who is part of a Vikings effort averaging 47.5 points over a 4-0 start.

“The time I get in the pocket, the holes they make for Keighton and Logan running the ball. It’s crazy to see it from my perspective. They’ve been together for a while, and they work so well together. They’ve been working hard, and the chemistry they have is amazing.”

Seniors control the guard spots in Lucas Yard (5-foot-10, 210 pounds) and Jacob Duriancik (6-1, 220), and juniors Brady Schrock (6-0, 285) and Greg Klingensmith (6-4, 254) are on the outside.

Sophomore Cooper Gourley (6-0, 215) gives stability to the group at center in his first year as a starter.

“We don’t have to worry about them doing their job,” Reese said. “They’re working hard every play to protect Jake or to open holes (in the run game). That’s what we need.”

Apollo-Ridge averages 423.1 yards per game. It collected 395 yards, including 253 on the ground, against Shady Side Academy.

“I am so proud of this group. They work their tails off in practice to be a cohesive unit,” coach John Skiba said.

“They are like the lunch-pail workers. It’s one of the harder working groups we have. They don’t stop. They take a lot of pride in blocking people. Each play is a personal and group challenge. We talk about that a lot when we watch film. They love being around each other. They play for each other and have fun.”

Yard (ACL) and Duriancik (elbow) missed almost all of last season.

“They didn’t play much football last year, and they were dying to get back,” Skiba said. “They have personal missions in addition to what they want to do for the total group. When we have them, there is so much we can do because they move so well. When they pull and pick up a defender, it’s beautiful to watch.”

Yard’s journey through injury stretches back two seasons. He hoped to build on a freshman year that saw him earn starting time at center.

He moved to guard as a sophomore, and, Skiba said, he increased his stock in the eyes of his coaches and teammates. But an injury to his knee ended his second season after just four games.

Yard said he is happy to be a part of a line that he feels plays as one.

“We’ve been buddies for a long time, and have bonded a lot over the years,” he said. “We’ve hit the weights hard and just done a lot of play (recognition), going over everything to make sure we know who we’re blocking and how each other blocks.”

Klingensmith and Schrock, Skiba said, played every snap last year.

“Greg is as good as it gets right now,” Skiba said. “He’s getting better every week. Brady is a big, thick kid who just loves to make a play.”

Skiba said that Gourley, while young, keeps getting better.

“Cooper is learning so much,” Skiba said. “(Center) is a position where you need to know a lot. He’s a smart kid.”

Harmon has known about strong line play over his four years as a starter for the Vikings. He is just 117 rushing yards away from 3,000 for his career. He has 44 career running touchdowns.

“They love blocking for Logan because they know Logan is going to work his tail off for them,” Skiba said. “They talked about keep running this or keep running that so they can keep plowing (through defenders). It’s an unselfish group.”

The offensive line and the rest of the Vikings players will put their 4-0 record on the line Friday against undefeated Serra Catholic in an Allegheny Conference matchup of teams in the top five of the Triblive HSSN WPIAL Class 2A rankings.

The game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

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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