Ligonier Valley football keeps marching on

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Saturday, September 21, 2019 | 8:48 PM


If you attend a Ligonier Valley football practice during the week, you might be surprised to hear music blaring for the entire session.

It’s something different veteran coach Roger Beitel allows his team to do.

When you have been the most dominating team in the PIAA District 6 Heritage Conference in the past five seasons, going 39-1 and winning 33 consecutive games, you can afford to be a little different.

“The music helps us relax,” Ligonier Valley senior captain Michael Petrof said. “There is a lot of pressure on us because you don’t want to be the first team to lose. We don’t take anyone lightly.”

Petrof and his senior classmates haven’t lost a game during the regular season, going 32-0 in the conference. During that time, the Rams (5-0) also have won three Appalachian Bowl titles, two PIAA Class 2A District 6 crowns and played in three consecutive District 6 championship games.

During that conference-record run of 33 consecutive wins, the Rams have invoked the “mercy rule” — a win by 35 points or more — 28 times. Discounting three forfeit victories during the streak, they have beaten teams by an average of 46.2 points.

“The mercy rule is something we’re not worried about,” Petrof said. “We usually get to play two or three quarters. While it may hurt our individual stats, in the long run, it’s keeping us fresh and healthy.”

The last time the Rams lost a conference game was Oct. 23, 2015, to Penns Manor, 19-12.

“Some people point to our class enrollment being so big,” Beitel said. “I agree it helps, but class size doesn’t matter. We’ve got talent.”

Ligonier Valley has had abundance of talent during the past four seasons, including quarterback/safety Collin Smith (West Virginia) and wide receiver Aaron Tutino (St. Francis (Pa.).

Since 2010 — and including the three players on this squad (Petrof, Christian Jablonski and Wylie Spiker who have NCAA Division I offers — the Rams will have eight players playing Division I football. The others are Alex Bloom (Connecticut), Michael Tennant (Lehigh) and Devin Cesario (Robert Morris).

Beitel said he does different things to keep his team focused. The biggest is preparing every game like they are playing perennial powers Richland or Southern Columbia.

Against West Shamokin on Friday, Petrof said the gameplan was to throw the ball instead of feeding the ball to running back Kyrie Miller.

The result was a 54-7 victory for Ligonier Valley, ranked No. 3 in the Trib’s PIAA Class 2A rankings. Quarterback Sam Sheeder threw for 310 yards, mainly to John Beard, who had eight receptions for 133 yards. Cage Dowden had three catches for 100 yards.

West Shamokin coach Jon McCullough said: “Ligonier Valley, obviously, is the best team in the conference and has been for a while. They’re a well-coached football team.

“We have a lot of respect for their program. It’s a program that we want to be like some day, and we’re trying to get to that point.”

Another thing Beitel does is allow his players to come up with different plays to run during games.

“(Tutino) came up with a play we called ‘Jayhawk’ that we used against Homer-Center in 2018,” Beitel said. “It was a wide receiver reverse pass that went for a touchdown. It was similar that Jeannette used in the state championship game against Homer-Center.

“Another play was a hot read and we used girlfriends’ names. We called ‘Hot Nina’ for a pass to Aaron and when the Northern Cambria players heard it, they started yelling pass to Tutino. Aaron was upset they knew his girlfriend’s name.”

Other things Beitel has his players do are have crazy sock day, jersey day and favorite coach’s quote day.

“We take pride in this streak,” Petrof said. “The team and community is 100% committed. We’re going to work hard and try to reach our goals.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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