Ligonier Valley football team makes most of unexpected week off

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Thursday, September 5, 2019 | 9:21 PM


It will be a quiet week for Ligonier Valley, but don’t expect the Rams to kick up their feet and relax because they have no game to play.

The Rams received news last weekend that United was forfeiting this week’s District 6 Heritage Conference game, moving the Rams’ record to 3-0. However, they’d rather play and earn wins.

United is short on roster numbers. It began the season with 18 players.

Ligonier Valley is ranked No. 4 in the state by the Tribune-Review in Class 2A.

“We are going to take advantage of the week to hit the weight room hard and get in three quality lifts,” Rams coach Roger Beitel said.

The team took Tuesday off but practiced and lifted Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“We will run offense and defense with our younger players to help their growth and development,” Beitel said.

The United game was supposed to be Saturday, so Beitel is letting his seniors attend college games that day.

The game would have been unique in that the teams had planned to play at Laurel Valley and honor schools from the past by wearing throwback uniforms.

Ligonier Valley was going to play as New Florence and United as Armagh.

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Ruane healing

Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane had outpatient surgery Wednesday on his torn right Achilles tendon and plans to be at Friday’s game at Connellsville. He will coach from the press box.

Ruane said the freak injury occurred when he turned during a play last Friday against Gateway and felt a “pop.”

“It felt like someone kicked me,” he said. “When I couldn’t move my foot, I knew I tore my Achilles.”

The play Ruane was turning to watch but could not fully celebrate was Cole DeFillippo’s late-game interception that sealed the 28-7 victory. The win vaulted the Warriors to the No. 1 ranking in WPIAL Class 5A — and No. 4 in the state.

“Hopefully it’s a quick recovery,” Ruane said. “It’s an experience I’d like to forget.”

Ruane was not at practice Wednesday, but a camera in the press box at Warrior Stadium allowed Ruane to watch a live stream of practice.

Ruane loathed the attention the injury attracted all week and wanted the spotlight to be on his players.

“It’s been a crazy four or five days since it happened,” Ruane said. “I don’t want to be remembered for being the only coach in WPIAL history to get injured on the sideline during a game. Hopefully we’ll have a better moment of the season than something like that to be the memory.”

Ruane has not coached from the press box since 2007, when he was an assistant at Gateway.

Getting defensive

In an era when offense is surging due to spread offenses and, perhaps, softer coverage, some teams still are trying to drive home the importance of defense.

The proof is in forced turnovers — particularly interceptions returned for scores. Greensburg Central Catholic’s Brandon Brown has three interceptions, including a pick-6 last week at Riverview.

Penn-Trafford had five interceptions — three by Caleb Lisbon — in the win over Gateway.

Southmoreland has nine takeaways, including four interceptions (and five fumble recoveries).

Ligonier Valley has two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Jeannette (Roberto Smith Jr.) and Hempfield (Demetrius Murphy) each have a pick-6, and Latrobe has a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Sam Miller.

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Jeannette nears 750

Jeannette’s next win will be the 750th in program history. The Jayhawks, who have more victories than any school in WPIAL football, would become the fourth team from Pennsylvania to get to 750.

The others are Mount Carmel (857), Easton (833) and Berwick (818).

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P-T alum faces Warriors

A former star receiver will coach against his alma mater Friday night when Marko Thomas leads Connellsville against visiting Penn-Trafford.

Thomas was a standout wide receiver at Penn-Trafford in the late 1990s before playing at Geneva.

He was an assistant at Penn-Trafford, Hempfield, Yough and Franklin Regional before accepting his first head-coaching job in 2017.

Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said he and Thomas’ children play youth sports together.

Marko Thomas’ father, Sonny, is Connellsville’s defensive coordinator and another Penn-Trafford assistant. Sonny Thomas has more than 50 years of coaching experience.

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Pulling rank

Penn-Trafford (5A) and Jeannette (A) moved into the No. 1 spots in their respective class rankings. P-T also is No. 4 in the state rankings, and Jeannette is No. 2.

•••

He said it

“It’s amazing to be the first one to score a touchdown on the turf. Hopefully there are many more.” — Jeannette senior receiver Bayley Molter, who caught three touchdown passes last week as Jeannette christened the new turf at McKee Stadium with a 33-6 win over Leechburg.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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