Serra Catholic fends off Ligonier Valley to win 7th in a row

Saturday, October 15, 2022 | 12:11 AM

Serra Catholic coach Jose Regus might have witnessed a better season a year ago when the Eagles won a WPIAL championship and advanced to the PIAA title game, but he appears to be enjoying 2022 just the same.

Maybe more.

“I don’t know if last year was the best year or the worst year of my life, as good as we were,” said Regus, who continues to improve after being stricken with a rare neurological disorder that kept him using a wheelchair last season, when Serra Catholic posted a 15-2 record after losing to Southern Columbia in the PIAA Class 2A championship game.

“It was a bittersweet season.”

Winning has helped Regus stay positive — he’s walking slowly now — and Serra Catholic certainly has done its share to stay on the positive side of the ledger.

The Eagles on Friday night won their seventh in a row with a 27-18 victory at Ligonier Valley after opening the year with a loss to North Catholic.

Elijah Ward scored three touchdowns, Quadir Stribling passed for 104 yards and Amire Spencer topped the 1,000-yard mark in receiving to lead No. 3 Serra Catholic (7-1, 5-0 Allegheny Conference).

“It’s a road, conference win against a good team,” Regus said. “They’ll be a playoff contender.”

Serra Catholic kept pace with top-ranked Steel Valley in the Allegheny Conference standings. Steel Valley defeated Burrell, 48-0.

Stribling, a sophomore who completed just 3 of 6 pass attempts, threw a 33-yard touchdown strike to Ward before Ward scored twice more on runs of 1 and 6 yards while splitting time with Stribling at quarterback. Both players were hovering around the 1,000-yard passing mark.

“We’ve seen our guys pass for 2,000 yards already,” Regus said. “The quarterback rotation is nice. It keeps teams off guard, and it threw them off guard a little. Both of those guys can run and both of them can throw.”

Ward, a senior, finished with 81 yards passing on 5 of 9 attempts, giving Serra Catholic a total of 185 yards through the air.

While Spencer, also a senior, didn’t figure in the scoring, he managed four receptions for 86 yards a week after totaling 10 catches for 147 yards and two TDs in a 28-14 victory over Yough.

Regus, as he’s done all year, took in the sights of his team’s big-play performance with a bit of satisfaction.

“They’re fun to watch,” he said. “We definitely win with big plays, and we had some big plays tonight.”

Serra Catholic, on its first play from scrimmage after Antoine Smith recovered a Ligonier Valley fumble, took a 7-0 lead on Stribling’s 33-yard touchdown pass Ward.

Just before halftime, Ward gave Serra Catholic a 13-6 advantage with a 1-yard touchdown run after the Eagles drove 60 yards, sparked by Ward’s 41-yard completion to Spencer.

Ligonier Valley early in the second quarter pulled within 7-6 on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Broderick Schreyer to Haden Sierocky, who also got into the passing act for the Rams with two completions, including a 4-yard touchdown to Logan Johnston in the third quarter.

“(Sierocky) is a heck of an athlete,” Regus said. “They’re a good team, well-coached. They prepare like we prepare. They took advantage of some things that they were able to do. It was a good football game.”

Ward’s 6-yard touchdown run in the third boosted Serra Catholic’s lead to 20-6 before Ligonier Valley (5-3, 3-2) pulled within 20-12 on Sierocky’s TD pass to Johnston.

Michael Schanck’s 7-yard touchdown run for Serra Catholic with 1 minute, 58 seconds left in the third quarter pushed the Serra Catholic lead to 27-12, and the Eagles held on despite Schreyer’s second scoring pass to Sierocky, a 4-yarder with 1:45 to go.

Schanck, who also plays defensive line, impressed Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel, who continued to rave about opponents’ stars.

“Each week we see someone who stands out,” Beitel said. “They’ve got several of them. From what I’ve see so far, (Schanck) is the defensive player of the year in our conference. I don’t know what kind of sixth sense he has. … The kid just has a knack for something that’s phenomenal. They made plays and we didn’t.”

Ligonier Valley was plagued by penalties, including a string of false-start calls, several deep in Serra Catholic territory.

“When you play a great football team, you can’t beat yourself before you try to beat the opponent,” Beitel said. “We had seven false starts alone. You’re just putting yourself behind the sticks. Whenever you play a football team as good as they are, you’ve got to be perfect, and we weren’t and we still battled.

“But self-inflected wounds and mental mistakes, you can’t do that against a good football team.”

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