Ligonier Valley goes to 5-0 with rout of Carrick despite another key injury

Friday, September 24, 2021 | 11:05 PM

Ligonier Valley spent another Friday night tuning up for what’s next: The games that count.

The Rams, ranked No. 5 in WPIAL Class 2A, open Allegheny Conference play in a week at Steel Valley with what coach Roger Beitel said following Friday night’s 62-12 rout of visiting Carrick will be less than his “best team.”

“Yet again, lost another dude,” Beitel said, referring to the first-half departure of wide receiver/defensive back Ryan Harbert, who did not return. Harbert, in his first season at the varsity level, was among the team’s leading tacklers.

The 5-foot-8, 155-pound senior was sidelined with an apparent shoulder injury when he couldn’t hold onto a pass in the end zone from Broderick Schreyer and came crashing to the ground amid several Carrick defenders.

“It’s unbelievable,” Beitel said. “Seems like its every week we’re losing someone. Very disappointed with that aspect of the game. Other than that, it was a good effort by our kids. A lot of kids stepped up and made plays. Next-man-up mentality.”

Ligonier Valley (5-0) already was without two-way starters Hayden Sierocky (broken arm) and Miles Higgins (knee).

“These first five victories are extremely costly to us in terms of quality players,” Beitel said. “Now, we limp into conference play without our best team.”

Nick Beitel, the coach’s son, rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns, Schreyer, making his second consecutive start in place of Sierocky, ignited the Ligonier Valley offense with a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes to Matthew Marinchak, and the Rams overwhelmed Carrick (0-5).

The victory assured Ligonier Valley a school-record seven consecutive winning seasons. The Rams, who are in their second season of their second stint in the WPIAL, were among the most dominant Class 2A teams in District 6 during that time.

While it’s true that Ligonier Valley can boast of early season road victories over Class 4A Indiana and Class 3A Elizabeth Forward, the Rams had been trying not to look ahead to back-to-back opening Allegheny Conference games on consecutive Friday nights.

After a Friday night game at Steel Valley, they’ll return home Oct. 8 to face No. 2 Serra Catholic.

“We really haven’t looked ahead,” Roger Beitel said. “We knew those things were on the horizon for us. We were just trying to get better every week. Our focus has been to get our replacements (for the injured starters) ready, to get our best 11 on the field, the right balance of players to put them in a position to win.”

With a bit of a patchwork lineup, Ligonier Valley went to work in a hurry against Carrick. Schreyer tossed touchdowns passes of 6 and 7 yards to Marinchak to give the Rams a 14-0 lead. Nick Beitel then scored on runs of 7 and 9 yards before Jacob Hay returned a fumble 25 yards.

It added up to a 42-0 Ligonier Valley lead with 7 minutes, 55 seconds left before Grant Dowden’s 19-yard touchdown run capped the first-half scoring and set a running clock in motion to start the second half.

Roger Beitel lifted most of his starters early in the second half before clearing his bench. A fumbled snap resulted in Carrick’s first touchdown in the first minute of the third quarter.

Brendan Payton-Smothers scored on the first of two 45-yard returns with a fumble recovery. He scored later in the third on a 45-yard interception return.

Nick Beitel’s 49-yard scoring run following Payton-Smothers’ first touchdown put the Ligonier Valley senior over 100 yards rushing and sent him to the bench for the night.

“You can’t let the injuries get you down,” Nick Beitel said. “We want to take advantage of every day we have and make the most of every opportunity.”

Ligonier Valley got two more second-half touchdown runs from a pair of freshmen, Duncan Foust scoring on a 3-yarder and John Jublunovsky on a 13-yarder.

It’s been a tough season for Carrick, which left the City League to become an independent this season. The Raiders will take a week off before closing out their schedule with two games at Cupples Stadium.

They’ll face Perry Traditional Academy on Oct. 7 and play a rematch with Uniontown on Oct. 15. Carrick has been overwhelmed in every game, including a 41-6 decision to the Red Raiders on Sept. 10.

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