Keystone Oaks dispatches Apollo-Ridge in WPIAL opening round

Friday, November 4, 2022 | 10:21 PM

Apollo-Ridge did its best to keep the ball away from Keystone Oaks’ standout junior receiver Clinton Robinson.

The Vikings kicked the ball out of bounds on kicks and punts to make sure he couldn’t return it, and they tried to blanket him in coverage.

But in the fourth quarter, Robinson found some space and showed why he is such a major weapon.

Robinson caught a pass from Nick Buckley and weaved his way into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown with just more than seven minutes remaining, and No. 6 Keystone Oaks held off the 11th-seeded Vikings for a 21-14 victory Friday at Dormont Stadium.

“We knew how good he was watching him on film,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “He’s explosive as heck. We tried to limit what he could get in his touches. Still, we battled. I couldn’t be prouder of the way our guys played tonight.”

Keystone Oaks (9-2) advanced to play No. 3 Sto-Rox in the quarterfinals next Friday.

They didn’t advance without a fight from the Vikings, however.

Apollo-Ridge (6-5) trailed 14-7 at halftime, but Logan Harmon recovered a fumble on the Keystone Oaks 20 in the third quarter.

That set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Nick Curci that tied the score 14-14.

The Vikings forced three turnovers on the night, but the Golden Eagles, led by seniors Nick Buckley and Shawn Reick, showed resolve.

“Apollo-Ridge is a great team, and they had a good gameplan to try and limit some of our skill guys, but we are a team that can win different ways,” Keystone Oaks coach Steve McCormick said. “It depends on what they’re willing to take away and what are we willing to do in return.

“We had about seven or eight starters that weren’t 100 percent. We had a stomach bug going around. We had to mix up practices a few times with the amount of guys we had out. That led to some sloppy play tonight, but great teams find a way to win big games and that’s what we did tonight.”

Reick finished with 225 yards on 29 carries. Buckley had 210 yards passing, and Robinson had six receptions for 110 yards.

Apollo-Ridge started the night strong, scoring three plays into the game on an 18-yard run by Curci. The score was set up by a 54-yard pass from Gage Johnston to Jake Mull on the opening play from scrimmage.

Keystone Oaks responded on its first possession with an 11-play drive concluding with a 1-yard Nick Buckley touchdown run.

It looked like the second quarter would be one of missed opportunities for the Golden Eagles, but Anthony Stribling scored in the final minute of the half on a 1-yard run following a late interception by Jack Hrivnak.

Prior to the late touchdown, Keystone Oaks saw several promising drives end in mistakes.

A holding penalty negated a nice gain by Reick inside the Apollo-Ridge 20, stalling a drive midway through the quarter than ended with a turnover on downs.

On the next drive the Golden Eagles had touchdowns called back on consecutive plays.

Despite the penalties, the Golden Eagles were able to drive to the Apollo-Ridge 1-yard line, but Buckley fumbled trying to get into the end zone and Apollo-Ridge recovered.

Curci rushed for 140 yards on 27 carries and finished the season with 1,567 yards and 22 touchdowns.

He’s one of 11 seniors for the Vikings.

“It’s hard,” Skiba said. “These guys have been with us forever. A couple of them are coaches’ kids. When you see 11 guys walk out, it’s never fun. But they did this team and this community proud. They battled hard and were a resilient group. I love them to death.”

Watch and archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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