Ligonier Valley finding ways to overcome adversity en route to 5-0 start

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Tuesday, September 28, 2021 | 10:48 AM


“You can’t let things get you down. It’s just staring at adversity right in his eyes and taking advantage of every day you have. You have to go out there and make the most of every opportunity, despite your situation.”

Sound like classic coachspeak?

You bet, but from a coach’s son.

Nick Beitel has been around Ligonier Valley’s success in football for years under the direction of his dad, coach Roger Beitel. The younger Beitel, a senior running back/defensive back for the Rams, seems to have mastered his pop’s narrative.

Yet, insisting “It’s all me,” Nick Beitel knows full well the influence his father has had on him. Even so, he’s not about to give in so fast.

“It’s not him talking when I say those things,” he said, concealing a smile and glancing away.

But then, Nick Beitel’s tone shifted to a serious note. After all, he’d just rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns in Ligonier Valley’s 62-12 victory over Carrick on Friday.

“My dad is definitely tough,” he said. “He’s really hard on me, and all these guys can attest to it. It’s hard being a coach’s kid. Not many people see that, but it is. It’s hard because he brings football home and I bring football home, so we have our moments.

“But it’s been great. I’m thankful for him. I love playing for my dad.”

And why not? At the regular-season midpoint, No. 5 Ligonier Valley (5-0) is among just 16 undefeated WPIAL teams heading into Friday night’s scheduled Class 2A Allegheny Conference opener at Steel Valley (4-0).

Three two-way players — junior quarterback/defensive back Haden Sierocky (broken arm), senior tight end/linebacker Miles Higgins (torn knee ligament) and senior wide receiver/defensive back Ryan Harbert (broken collarbone) — are out of the Ligonier Valley lineup indefinitely with injuries.

Harbert was injured during the first half against Carrick and initially was thought to have hurt his shoulder.

“For us to continue to be successful,” Nick Beitel said, “it’s just how you can face adversity and who can overcome it. That’s what we’re doing now. We’re overcoming a lot of adversity, even more so with Ryan being out now.”

In Sierocky’s place against Carrick, junior quarterback Broderick Schreyer, in just his second career start, ignited the Ligonier Valley offense with a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes to senior Matthew Marinchak as the Rams built a 42-0 halftime lead.

“It has always been my hope that our program is a developmental program, and we proved that by developing a backup quarterback capable of stepping into the moment,” Roger Beitel said.

Any way you view it, Roger Beitel, as well as in previous years his oldest son, Zach, and currently Nick surely have enjoyed a successful run that at times has seen Ligonier Valley dominate in District 6.

The Rams reached the PIAA semifinals in 2016 and quarterfinals in 2017 and posted consecutive 12-1 records in 2018 and ’19, losing both times in the District 6 championship game.

They returned to the WPIAL in 2020, their second stint in District 7 after a 50-year absence, and posted a 4-3 mark in a shortened schedule.

Ligonier Valley, which spent 43 years in the WPIAL before leaving in 1970, has clinched a school-record seven consecutive nonlosing seasons and second in as many years in the WPIAL.

The Rams’ 5-0 record this year assures them of at least a .500 record. Following Friday’s game with Steel Valley, they’ll face No. 2 Serra Catholic, Summit Academy, Shady Side Academy and Apollo-Ridge to round out the regular season.

“There was always that talk about how we would fare in the WPIAL,” said Roger Beitel, whose 18-year record is 137-56, all at Ligonier Valley.

“If you go back a few years, I don’t believe our sustained success really computed to the same sort of success we might have here. Playing in District 6 gave us a stigma.”

But Beitel’s teams have shown a tendency for finding a way to — excuse the coachspeak — “overcome adversity.” Ligonier Valley this season for much of its success has relied on 12 seniors, including Nick Beitel, a three-year letterwinner.

“He’s a great kid,” Roger Beitel said. “Being my son isn’t easy, even when you’re one of the top players. I’ve never wanted anyone to think that either of my boys got special treatment.”

Senior Jude Grzywinski, a 6-foot-3, 301-pound, two-way lineman, is working on his fourth letter.

Beitel, Marinchak, Higgins, running backs/defensive backs Grant Dowden and Khorter Drury, running back/linebacker Kaden Faas and two-way lineman Jacob Hay appear to be in line for a third letter each.

The team’s remaining seniors are wide receiver/defensive back Logan Foust, kicker George Golden and running back/linebacker Sam Mundorff, all whom are likely to earn a second letter, and Harbert, who is in his first varsity season.

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