Ligonier Valley beats Western Beaver for 1st WPIAL playoff win in school history

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Friday, November 4, 2022 | 11:09 PM


Ligonier Valley drove two-and-a-half hours to its playoff game last year.

Playing a little closer to home Friday night, the Rams were more focused on long drives to the end zone.

Behind a power rushing attack that wore down their opponent and chipped away at the clock, the seventh-seeded Rams produced their first WPIAL playoff win in school history, 27-20 over No. 10 Western Beaver at Offutt Field in Greensburg.

Haden Sierocky rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries and added an interception, as Ligonier Valley (8-3) advanced to play No. 2 Beaver Falls (9-1) at 7 p.m. next Friday at Geneva College in the Class 2A quarterfinals.

Western Beaver ends the season at 7-4.

“This is special. We’re the first to do it,” Sierocky said. “I wouldn’t want to do this with any other group of guys.”

Ligonier Valley rejoined the WPIAL in 2020 after 50 years in District 6, where it became a perennial power. It lost to South Side Beaver, 34-14, in the first round a year ago.

Technically, the first-round win was a “home” game for the higher-seeded Rams, but this wasn’t Weller Field, so the team viewed it as playing on the road.

With that in mind, they moved to 6-0 this season playing away from Ligonier — and 2-0 in playoff games at Offutt.

A rowdy Rams fan base showed up and made Offutt their own for a few hours.

Duncan Foust added 85 yards rushing for the Rams, who didn’t throw a pass in the second half and sustained a couple of 80-plus-yard drives.

The team’s latest victory had a “welcome to the club” kind of feel to it.

“The hardest thing to do in all of high school sports is win a playoff game in the WPIAL,” Rams coach Roger Beitel said. “I am proud of our kids. We got back to our bread and butter (more in the second half), and that’s run the football and play great defense.”

Western Beaver was trying to snap a string of six straight opening-round losses that dates to their last postseason victory in 2008.

“We contained the big plays,” Beitel said, “which is something we have done well lately. We had some self-inflicted wounds but overcame them. We thought they would pressure us more. We kind of flipped the script and put pressure on them.”

That left Golden Beavers quarterback Xander LeFebvre scrambling for most of the night. While he escaped a few times and threw for 147 yards and two touchdowns, he was also intercepted three times.

Western Beaver opened the scoring when LeFebvre threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dorian McGhee. The conversion pass failed, and it was 6-0.

Ligonier Valley answered after Colin Smith sacked LeFebvre for a 10-yard loss. Sierocky ran in from 1, and Hunter Carr’s extra point made it 7-6 early in the second quarter.

The Rams cashed in on a turnover with 4:04 left in the first half. McKinley Shearer picked off LeFebvre to set up Sierocky’s second score, a 6-yard run that gave the Rams a 13-6 advantage.

The Golden Beavers, though, marched 65 yards to tie it just before the half. That included two fourth-down conversions, the second courtesy of a Rams’ facemask penalty that killed the momentum of a sack.

LeFebvre threw a 37-yard pass to McGhee, spiked the ball, then ran in from the 1 with no time on the clock. Paxton Short’s extra point tied it 13-all.

“We needed to come out and win the first drive of the second half, and we did that,” Beitel said. “We got a big stop there.”

After forcing a three-and-out to open the second half, the Rams drove 82 yards, with the help of some penalties, and Sierocky rumbled in for a 5-yard score to give the Rams a 20-13 lead with 8:03 to play in the third.

“Our mentality was pound it, pound it, pound it,” Sierocky said. “Our line blocked all night, and we made plays.”

Foust, who left the game shaken up, had a key 41-yard run on the drive.

“That kid just puts his head down and works,” Sierocky said.

With the Golden Beavers driving for another would-be tying score, Sierocky stepped in front of Tyson Florence deep in Western Beaver territory for the Rams’ third interception of the night.

“That was a big play,” Beitel said.

The Rams continued to pound the ball on the ground, and used 13 plays to go 86 yards, with Sierocky scoring on an 11-yard sweep to increase the lead to 27-13 with 8:03 to play.

The Golden Beavers rallied again as LeFebvre tossed a 20-yard strike to Deandre Moye with 6:24 to play. The QB also found Mikey Crawford for a 46-yard pass play to move the sticks and help the Golden Beavers get within 27-20.

The Rams then ran out the clock and took two kneel-downs with a minute to play and goal to go.

Another well-utilized ball carrier, Nick Lonas, was knocked out of the game with a lower-body injury that Beitel believes to be season ending.

Yet another rushing threat, John Jablunovsky, who came back from a leg injury he suffered in the first quarter, also had an interception for the Rams.

“The first half was a little rocky,” Jablunovsky said. “But we showed up in the second half. We fixed what we had to fix. Now, we have that first win.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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