Ligonier Valley continues to adjust in 2nd year in WPIAL

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Sunday, August 22, 2021 | 6:01 AM


Ligonier Valley’s return to the WPIAL was a learning experience for football coach Roger Beitel in 2020.

Not only did the Rams discover what type of styles and athleticism opponents had, they also got a geography lesson. Ligonier Valley played in six counties — Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Fayette, Greene and Westmoreland.

The Rams finished 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the WPIAL Class 2A Allegheny Conference. They finished behind Apollo-Ridge and Serra Catholic.

Because of covid-19 protocols and cancellations, the Rams were forced to find some opponents to fill holes in the schedule. Western Beaver and Waynesburg were not part of the original schedule but were added. Ligonier Valley didn’t get to play Summit Academy, which opted out of last season.

The coronavirus hampered offseason preparation for all the teams. It really hurt Ligonier Valley, which needed the reps because of so many new players.

Things are sort of back to normal this season. The Rams had a regular offseason, the team worked to get bigger and stronger and the young players are a year older.

“Everything was a learning experience for us,” Beitel said. “It was crazy because we got seven games in, and we played in six counties. We got to travel pretty much all over the WPIAL, which was a good experience from Western Beaver to Waynesburg.

“Just getting into a different mindset, basically if you finish in the top three in your section, you go to the playoffs in a normal year,” Beitel said.

“It gets you into a different mindset. Our first five games are basically exhibition games. It’s for us to work and get better and develop a team. In District 6, Week 1 you had to go because it was a point game.”

And Beitel knows it’s still going to be a challenge every week in the Allegheny Conference, facing the likes of Apollo-Ridge, Serra Catholic, Shady Side Academy, Steel Valley and Summit Academy.

“We’ll also have to adjust to the speed we’ll face,” Beitel said. “We’re playing teams that have a lot more speed. Everybody has a kid that is a game breaker that the other team can’t catch. That’s a big adjustment.

“Learning the schools and learning their styles, and we’re still in a learning process because we didn’t get a full schedule of the teams we should have played. Our kids had a good offseason this year, a lot of learning in terms of getting out and playing seven-on-seven and playing in different settings that is helping us prepare for our WPIAL conference.”

The good news for the Rams is they return 21 of 22 starters. Offensive lineman Derek Fox was the lone senior in the 2020 roster.

Heading the offensive is junior quarterback Haden Sierocky, who completed 50 of 99 passes for 559 yards and seven touchdowns. He also rushed for 676 yards and 13 scores.

Senior Nick Beitel, the coach’s son, gives the Rams a solid one-two punch in the running game. He rushed for 642 yards and four touchdowns. Beitel also had 14 catches for 147 yards.

Among other returning skill players, senior Matthew Marinchak had 14 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown. Grant Dowden caught 11 passes for 149 yards, rushed for 118 yards and scored three touchdowns. Tight end Miles Higgins had eight catches for 85 yards.

Seniors Ryan Harbert (slot back) and Khorter Drury (wide receiver) also will start. This is the first season for Harbert, an outstanding wrestler for the Rams.

Senior Jude Grzywinski returns for his fourth season at center. He’ll be flanked by left guard Colin Smith, left tackle Tylan Wilkins, right tackle Jacob Hay and right guard Kaden Faas.

Smith started the 2020 season at left tackle before he suffered a knee injury against Serra and Wilkins moved in. Junior Billy Sugden is a player who could be in the mix on the offensive line.

The Rams will use a 4-3 look on defense, with Grzywinski and junior Logan Mulheren anchoring the tackle spots, and Hay, Sugden and senior George Golden seeing time at end.

Dowden returns at inside linebacker and Higgins and Faas on the outside.

The secondary will consist of Nick Beitel and Drury at cornerback and Harbert and Sierocky at safety.

Golden, who returns as the team’s kicker, decided not to play soccer and will be a key position player for the Rams.

Ligonier Valley

Coach: Roger Beitel

2020 record: 4-3, 2-2 in Class 2A Allegheny Conference

All-time record: 467-495-40

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.27 at Indiana, 7

9.3 at Elizabeth Forward, 7

9.10 Jeannette, 7

9.17 Frazier, 7

9.24 Carrick, 7

10.1 at Steel Valley*, 7

10.8 Serra Catholic*, 7

10.15 Summit Academy*, 7

10.22 at Shady Side Academy*, 7

10.29 Apollo-Ridge*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Haden Sierocky

50-99, 559 yards, 7 TDs

Receiving: Nick Beitel

14-147 yards

Rushing: Sierocky

91-676 yards, 13 TDs

FAST FACTS

• Ligonier Valley was formed via a merger of Ligonier Valley and Laurel Valley in 2010. Both were members of the Ligonier Valley School District.

• The Rams returned to the WPIAL in 2020 after spending 50 years in District 6. The Rams won two District 6 Class AA titles (2016, ‘17) and made the championship game four consecutive seasons (2016-19).

• The Rams had three NCAA Division I linemen on the 2019 team. They were Michael Petrof (Navy), Christian Jablonski (Lehigh) and Wylie Spiker (St. Francis).

• Ligonier Valley played in the Class B Alle-Fay-West Conference (1964-67) against the likes of Trafford (Penn-Trafford), South Huntingdon (Yough), West Newton (Yough), Edgewood (Woodland Hills), Frazier and Dunbar (Connellsville).

ROSTER

No., Name, Pos., Ht./Wt., Cl.

1, Logan Foust, SE/DB, 5-9/157, Sr.

2, George Golden, K, 6-3/210, Sr.

3, Broderick Schreyer, QB/DB, 5-8/160, Jr.

5, Nick Beitel, RB/DB, 5-8/182, Sr.

7, Nick Lonas, RB/DB, 5-11/152, Jr.

8, Duncan Foust, QB/LB, 5-10/164, Fr.

10, Zach Theys, WR/DB, 5-4/103, Fr.

11, Ryan Harbert, SE/DB, 5-8/155, Sr.

13, Grant Dowden, RB/DB, 6-0/170, Sr.

15, Miles Higgins, TE/LB, 6-3/228, Sr.

17, Haden Sierocky, QB/DB, 6-0/176, Jr.

19, Matthew Marinchak, SE/DB, 6-2/200, Sr.

21, Sam Mundorff, RB/LB, 5-5/131, Sr.

24, Logan Johnston, RB/DB, 5-9/157, Jr.

26, Khorter Drury, RB/DB, 5-8/161, Sr.

29, Mark Jablunovsky, WR/DB, 5-9/132, Fr.

32, Bruce Krieger, RB/DB, 5-9/141, Jr.

40, John Jablunovsky, RB/DB, 5-10/150, Fr.

44, Maxx Oberley, WR/DB, 5-8/141, Fr.

50, Mason Mohnkern, OL/DL, 5-11/171, Jr.

51, Jesse Turner, OL/LB, 5-9/178, Jr.

52, Kaden Faas, RB/LB, 5-10/193, Sr.

54, Sam Caldwell, OL/DL, 6-0/266, So.

56, Landen Laskoski, OL/DL, 5-9/201, Jr.

57, Jacob Hay, OL/DL, 6-2/200, Sr.

58, Noah Dunn, OL/DL, 5-10/232, Fr.

61, James Pleskovitch, OL/DL, 6-2/223, Jr.

63, Billy Sugden, OL/DL, 6-1/208, Jr.

67, Wade Lamont, OL/DL, 5-7/165, Fr.

74, Jude Grzywinski, OL/DL, 6-3/301, Sr.

75, Colin Smith, OL/DL, 5-11/260, Jr.

77, Tylan Wilkins, OL/DL, 5-11/248, Jr.

78, Logan Mulheren, OL/DL, 5-9/303, Jr.

80, Alex Marquis, WR/DB, 5-8/123, Fr.

83, McKinley Shearer, TE/LB, 5-11/183, Jr.

88, Hunter Carr, TE/LB, 5-10/165, Fr.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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