Ligonier Valley football taking show on the road again in District 6 semifinals

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Thursday, November 8, 2018 | 5:27 PM


As the Ligonier Valley football team prepared for Saturday’s District 6 Class 2A semifinal against Bellwood-Antis, one of coach Roger Beitel’s defensive assistants chided one of the players for not studying the opponent’s game film that was sent to the players over the weekend.

He wanted the player and the rest of the team to know this is not the time of the season to be unprepared.

Ligonier Valley has won the past two District 6 titles, so the coaches want the players to stay sharp and not take anyone opponent lightly, especially Bellwood-Antis (10-1).

The Blue Devils have won 10 consecutive games after opening the season with a 16-7 loss to rival Tyrone. In the opening round of the district playoffs last week, they defeated West Shamokin, 14-6.

“Bellwood-Antis has a lot of tradition and have been in a lot of big games,” Beitel said. “We’re preparing for a tough battle.”

Because of heavy rain this fall and poor playing conditions at Weller Field, for the second consecutive game, Ligonier Valley has decided to move its “home” game to a stadium with artificial turf. Last week, the Rams defeated Marion Center, 41-0, at Offutt Field in Greensburg.

This week’s game will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday at Greater Johnstown Stadium. The winner will face the winner of Friday’s Richland/Penns Valley game Nov. 16 or 17 at Mansion Park in Altoona.

“Playing on turf is a plus for us,” Beitel said. “Bellwood is good, but we’re a little bigger.”

Bellwood-Antis is led by senior quarterback Shawn Wolfe. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound southpaw has completed 63 of 121 passes for 1,068 yards and seven touchdowns.

“They have a very effective passing game,” Beitel said. “The quarterback makes things happen with his feet and arm.”

Wolfe is the Blue Devils’ second-leading rusher with 542 yards and 10 touchdowns. The leading rusher is Alex Frederick, with 598 yards and 11 scores.

Wolfe’s top receivers are Zach Mallon (26 catches for 379 yards) and Andrew Hale (19-450). Both have caught three touchdown passes.

Ligonier Valley just finished its third consecutive unbeaten regular season. The past three seasons, the Rams are 39-2, and the senior class is 48-5.

By participating in the PIAA playoffs the past two seasons, losing to perennial power Southern Columbia in 2016 and Dunmore in 2017, the Ligonier Valley players know what it takes to be great — speed and strength.

“They have a great lifting program,” Shade coach Don Fyfe said. “They also are well-coached and talented.”

Ligonier Valley has a balanced offensive attack.

Senior quarterback John Caldwell engineers the offense. He has completed 123 of 180 passes for 2,174 yards and 33 touchdowns.

His main target is senior wide receiver Aaron Tutino, who has 55 catches for 1,167 yards and 19 touchdowns. He holds the state record for career touchdown receptions (59). He’s caught 55 passes in each of the past three seasons and has 195 total for 3,924 yards in his career.

Sam Sheeder has 33 catches for 543 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 317 yards and six scores.

When opponents try to take away the passing game, the Rams’ massive offensive line opens up lanes for junior running back Kyrie Miller, who has rushed for 1,387 yards and 21 touchdowns.

The last time the teams played was in the 2007 Class A playoffs. Bellwood-Antis won the game 26-6 and eventually captured the district playoff title.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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