T-D HS Football

Rams change pace against Stingers

By: Mike Mastovich

LIGONIER — Ligonier Valley needed to change the pace against a Marion Center team that just wouldn’t go away on Friday night at Weller Field.
The Rams turned to a no-huddle offense to reestablish the momentum in the home team’s favor, ultimately sealing a 29-8 Heritage Conference victory.
“Going uptempo, no-huddle, that’s something we never had done before this year,” said Ligonier senior quarterback Scott Fennell, who completed 8 of 15 passes for 133 yards and three touchdowns. “They were huffing and puffing. We were going play after play. We went quick.
“We got a lot of kids to catch the ball and run, especially Alec. We went to some stretch plays, really quick, fast plays that attacked the edge.”
Fennell referred to 6-foot-7 senior tight end Alec Bloom, a Division I UConn recruit who caught five passes for 82 yards and three touchdowns.
“They’ve got a nice team and some nice weapons,” Marion Center coach Dave Malicky said. “Bloom is a nice, big receiver. Fennell runs the ball very well. They’ve got some nice weapons besides those two.”
Ligonier remains unbeaten through four weeks. The Stingers slipped to 1-3.
Despite his team’s mounting touchdown drives of 14 and 15 plays, and his defense holding Marion Center to one score, Ligonier coach Roger Beitel was frustrated while addressing a group of reporters after the game.
“We got the no-huddle going and our playmakers made plays,” Beitel said. “Give Marion Center a lot of credit to keep fighting back. That’s what they did all night. I’m not happy with our lack of discipline, and that sits solely with me. I’m not happy with our lack of emotion and not wanting to play football the way the game of football deserves to be played.
“We won the football game but we have mountains of work to do – mountains of work to do.”
Fennell and Bloom teamed on a 48-yard pass 4 minutes into the game. Bloom ran across the field and caught the ball in stride and outraced defenders to the end zone.
“He runs it perfectly,” Fennell said of the scoring play. “He sits right behind that outside linebacker, underneath the safety. Once he catches it, he’s not going to be tackled by one guy. He’s got good burners to get out.”
Fennell’s interception and 18-yard return to the Stingers 12-yard line set up the game’s second score, a 1-yard Dan Croyle run. Dereck Croyle ran the conversion to make it 15-0 at 6:46 of the first quarter.
Marion Center drove to the Rams 29-yard line but Garrett Tobias’ interception stopped the march.
The Stingers later drove 64 yards to score on quarterback Blake Orr’s 1-yard dash at 8:59 of the second quarter.
Ligonier responded with a 14-play, 80-yard march that chewed up 6:57 of game clock. Fennell lobbed a high pass that Bloom caught over a defender for a nine-yard touchdown.
“He puts the ball there every time,” Bloom said. “He scrambles out, I put my hand up whenever I feel like I’m open. I was in the back of the end zone. He throws it up. If I don’t catch it, I’m not going to let the other guy catch it.”
Bloom made the catch appear routine, even though Marion Center played solid defense on him.
“The second one he was matched up with a kid who’s 6-2, 6-3,” Fennell said. “He wasn’t giving up a foot-plus like he usually is. He just high points the ball. I could throw it 10 1⁄2 feet in the air and he’s able to go up and grab it with two hands.”
The Rams used 15 plays to move 85 yards in the third quarter, a drive capped by Bloom’s 10-yard touchdown reception.
“He’s really instinctive,” Fennell said. “He knew that I was rolling out to my right. He broke off his route in the middle of the field and came back, found a little soft spot in the defense and we were able to hook up.”
“The one at the end, he’s probably the only one in this whole facility who can catch that ball,” Beitel said of the final touchdown reception.
Ligonier rushed 31 times for 161 yards, with Fennell gaining 56 and freshman Collin Smith running for 48.
Marion Center’s Zach Edwards ran for 61 yards, and Noah Hoover had 29.
Beitel pointed to the no-huddle offense as a game-changer.
“We needed to force the issue,” Beitel said. “We needed to get ourselves in a situation where we get them back on their heels. They were able to dial up a lot of blitzes which created problems for us.
“Going no-huddle, all of the sudden, you get the defense back on their heels. They can’t dial up all those blitzes because kids are high school kids. It gave us a spark when we needed it.”