Ligonier Valley rolls to another conference win over West Shamokin

Friday, September 20, 2019 | 11:34 PM

Ligonier Valley wore throwback jerseys Friday night to honor the former New Florence Wolverines, but the Rams played like their usual selves in a 54-7 rout of visiting West Shamokin.

Sam Sheeder passed for 310 yards and four touchdowns, three to John Beard, and Ligonier Valley, No. 3 in the Trib’s PIAA Class 2A rankings, rolled past the Wolves for their 33rd consecutive District 6 Class 2A/1A Heritage Conference victory.

Ligonier Valley’s last Heritage Conference loss was a 19-12 decision to Penns Manor on Oct. 23, 2015.

The victory also marked the 100th in Heritage Conference games for Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel, whose 16-year record is 120-52.

“I guess that makes me old. That’s one thing,” Beitel said. “Credit to all the great kids we’ve had, because without them, it’s just a number. And the assistant coaches, too. It’s because of all their hard work. I kind of just set the plan in place, and those guys do it.”

Sheeder completed 17 of 26 passes, mainly to Beard, who had eight receptions for 133 yards; Cage Dowden, who caught three passes for 100 yards; and Matthew Marinchak, who had four receptions.

Sheeder led a frantic drive in the final minute of the first half to give Ligonier Valley (5-0, 5-0) a 33-0 halftime lead, solidifying Beitel’s trust in the senior, a former running back, who returned under center after a two-year absence.

“Sam played really well. His decision-making was really good,” Beitel said. “That last drive in the first half just showed his poise and maturation.”

Sheeder threw touchdown passes of 8, 10 and 11 yards, and the duo nearly hooked up on a fourth. But a 20-yard pass play in the third quarter reached the 1, where Kyrie Miller scored his second rushing touchdown and third overall in the game.

Miller rushed for 80 yards on 14 carries before Beitel turned to his reserves. He also scored on another 1-yard run in the first quarter and caught an 8-yard pass from Sheeder with just 16 second left in the first half.

“Ligonier Valley, obviously, is the best team in the conference and has been for a while,” West Shamokin coach Jon McCullough said. “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 here some day, and we’re trying to get to that point. We’re young and we’re coming along.”

They are the only Class 2A schools in the predominantly Class A Heritage Conference.

West Shamokin (1-4, 1-4) was led by sophomore quarterback Bo Swartz, who was 14 of 26 for 157 yards and one touchdown of 13 yards to Jaiden Haswell.

The Wolves played without leading rusher Logan McClafferty, who was sidelined with an ankle injury suffered in last week’s 13-6 victory over Blairsville.

Miller’s second 1-yard touchdown run just 2 minutes into the third quarter set a running clock in motion under the PIAA mercy rule, the fourth time Ligonier Valley has done so this season.

One of the Rams’ victories came in the season’s third week, a forfeit against United, which has had difficulty producing enough healthy players. The Lions also forfeited Friday night’s scheduled home game to Homer-Center.

Ligonier Valley originally was scheduled to wear its throwback jerseys Sept. 7 against United n New Florence as part of the borough’s susquecentennial celebration.

Instead, the special jerseys were on display Friday night.

“We had a donor that said to go ahead and wear them,” Beitel said. “It was a special night, and the kids enjoyed them.”

While Beitel was honored for his 100th conference victory following the game, New Florence native Roy Richardson, 90, who played for the old New Florence Wolverines, was presented with his jersey No. 25 before the game.

“The best part of the night was seeing honorary captain Roy Richardson walk out on the field,” Beitel said. “That was a special moment.”

And so, too, was another Ligonier Valley victory.

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