Greensburg Salem holds on for win over Ligonier Valley

Friday, September 9, 2022 | 11:20 PM

Greensburg Salem made a rare venture into the mountains Friday night and escaped with a narrow high school football victory over relative WPIAL newcomer Ligonier Valley.

The teams hadn’t played in more than 90 years.

Cody Rubrecht passed for 118 yards and rushed for 116 to lead Class 3A Greensburg Salem to a 35-28 victory, the Golden Lions’ second in a row after a lopsided, season-opening defeat to Class 5A Hempfield without several suspended starters.

The series between the two teams began with a pair of games in 1928 and ‘29. Since then, the schools had played in different PIAA districts until the 2020 season.

Rubrecht, a senior who this season was converted to quarterback from wide receiver, scored three touchdowns and passed for another.

But it was his 90-yard interception return that gave Greensburg Salem a 28-6 lead after Class 2A Ligonier Valley, which is playing in just its third season in the WPIAL after a long union with District 6, had cut the deficit to 21-6 on Haden Sierocky’s 9-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.

“Cody, obviously, jumps out,” Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer said. “He made a bunch of great plays.”

Rubrecht, who also plays defensive back, had two long touchdown runs on the same drive erased by penalties, and his interception in the end zone thwarted a Ligonier Valley drive after the Rams gained momentum with a last-second touchdown to end the first half.

Sophomore John Jablunovsky’s 60-yard scoring run as time expired in the second quarter gave Ligonier Valley new life heading into the locker room. Sierocky threw a 2-point conversion pass to Logan Johnston to pull the Rams within 28-14 at the break.

“We saw (Jablunovsky) on film, and we could see his speed,” Keefer said. “He’s young, and they just have to figure out how to use him in their scheme. When he gets greased up, he’s going to be tough to pin down.”

Rubrecht, a speedster in his own rite, came away impressed with the Ligonier Valley first-year player.

“He’s pretty fast. I was surprised,” said Rubrecht, who chased and nearly caught Jablunovsky with time winding down before intermission.

Sierocky led Ligonier Valley with 160 yards rushing, while Jablunovsky finished with 155 yards on six carries.

Five turnovers — four in the first half — hampered Ligonier Valley, which fell behind, 21-0, in the second quarter and went on to lose a home game at Weller Field for the first time since Central Martinsburg defeated the Rams on Nov. 6, 2015, when Ligonier Valley was a member of District 6.

“We have a lot of young guys, and this game gives them a lot of good experience,” Rubrecht said. “This was not any easy game, and we knew it was going to be a little bit rough because they all run the ball. Ligonier Valley runs a wing-T offense, which we usually don’t see. We just had to adjust to it, and I thought we did enough.”

Both coaches — Keefer and Ligonier Valley’s Roger Beitel — agreed on at least one other thing: It was a good game for fans to watch.

Beitel, too, tipped his cap to Rubrecht, calling him “a phenomenal athlete.”

“It was a heck of a game,” Keefer said. “I think we got better this week and played a good, quality opponent.”

Added Beitel: “I absolutely loved the effort we gave. I’m beyond proud of our kids’ effort. It was a great football game, and that’s what the fans come out to see, right?”

Greensburg Salem (2-1) took advantage of Ligonier Valley’s mistakes. Markeece Walker recovered a fumble and Kai Brunot and Keegan Young joined Rubrecht with interceptions for the Golden Lions, who built a 21-0 lead on Rubrecht’s 13-yard run, his 65-yard pass to Christian Hostleter and Brunot’s 2-yard run.

Jablunovsky added a 63-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to pull Ligonier Valley (2-1) within 28-21. But Rubrecht then scored on a 7-yard keeper to give Greensburg Salem a 35-21 lead.

Sierocky’s 3-yard run with 2 1/2 minutes left closed the gap to 35-28, and Ligonier Valley forced a Greensburg Salem punt, setting up a possible tying score. But Rams quarterback Broderick Schreyer, who finished with 136 yards passing but three interceptions, couldn’t convert a pass on fourth down deep in Greensburg Salem territory, and the Golden Lions held on.

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