Serra Catholic catches stride, runs past Ligonier Valley

Friday, October 9, 2020 | 10:50 PM

Ligonier Valley knocked Serra Catholic’s high-powered offense off kilter in the first half Friday night.

The Eagles, who had averaged a WPIAL-best 53.7 points through three games, scored just one touchdown in the opening 24 minutes. They had two drives end in punts and another result in a turnover on downs.

“We just told them we were a little off page,” Serra Catholic coach Jose Regus said. “We just had to go out there and do what we do.”

Serra Catholic regrouped and showed its offensive prowess in the second half, scoring 41 straight points en route to a 48-15 victory over visiting Ligonier Valley in Allegheny Conference play.

Quarterback Max Rocco threw for three touchdowns and Terrell Booth added three of his own — two receiving and one rushing — in a win that allowed the Eagles (4-0, 2-0) to remain unbeaten heading into a showdown with undefeated Apollo-Ridge next week.

“I knew we were going to bounce back,” Regus said. “We stayed calm through the entire first half. We weren’t doing what we wanted to do, and we weren’t making the plays we usually make. We knew we had to get back into it in the second half.”

With the game tied at 7-7, Serra wasted little time taking the lead in the third quarter.

The Eagles drove 66 yards on eight plays and capped off their opening second-half drive with a 3-yard touchdown run by Machai Brooks. Brooks, who had a 2-yard scamper for the lone Serra TD in the first half, finished with 13 carries for 99 yards in the win.

“We lost the first possession of the second half, and that’s a big possession. We have to respond better than that,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “Anytime you’re in a football game, that first possession of the second half, whether you’re on offense or defense, is one you have to win.”

Serra forced a safety on Ligonier Valley’s first possession of the second half to extend its lead to 16-7.

Then, on the first play of the ensuing possession, Rocco connected with Jayvon Holt for a 38-yard touchdown. Serra led 22-7 with 7:11 left in the third.

Booth scored the final touchdown of the quarter with just under a minute remaining as he found his way into the end zone from 21 yards out to extend Serra’s lead to 28-7 after a PAT from Joey Folino.

Rocco hit Booth for touchdown passes of 33 and 31 yards in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Elijah Ward also had a touchdown pass, connecting with Paul Pearson for a 43-yarder with under eight minutes to go.

Rocco completed 14 of 24 passes for 208 yards. Booth had three catches for 74 yards to go with 52 rushing yards on four carries.

“Our timing was a little bit off. We made some adjustments with our receivers and it worked out in our favor,” Regus said. “We definitely needed a challenge like this. We needed to come back down to earth a bit and realize that when you’re in a game like this, you have to play.”

Ligonier Valley (2-2, 1-2) scored its lone first-half touchdown on the drive after Brooks’ first score made it 7-0 Serra.

The Rams moved 83 yards on a 16-play drive that lasted just over eight and a half minutes. Nick Beitel, who finished with 59 rushing yards on 23 attempts, ran it in from 2 yards out to tie the game four seconds into the second quarter.

LV added its second touchdown in the final minute of the game as Hayden Sierocky found Matt Marinchak for a 24-yard score. A 2-point conversion by Bruce Krieger added to LV’s total.

The Rams played stout defense in the first half, limiting Serra to just 92 total yards. The Eagles finished with 449 yards of total offense compared to 162 for the Rams.

“They’re a pretty good football team. They have sound tacklers,” Regus said of Ligonier Valley. “Some of those plays (in the first half) could have been something, but they made some pretty sound tackles.”

Listen to an archived version of this game on Trib HSSN.

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