T-D HS Football

Richland dispatches Tyrone

By: Shawn Curtis

When looking at Richland’s vast array of playmaking firepower, Nico Pecora’s name might get lost in the long list of Rams talent.
Make no mistake about it: Ignoring the Richland senior is a huge error.
Pecora hauled in a touchdown, returned an interception for a touchdown and used his athleticism to turn a broken conversion play into points as Richland pulled away from Tyrone 43-18 in Friday’s District 6 Class AA semifinal at Herlinger Field.
“He’s such a team player and he’s just a tremendous athlete and he loves to compete,” Rams coach Brandon Bailey said of Pecora. “This offseason, we really focused on him getting better fundamentally as a wide receiver and he was able to do that, work on his reps and get better. He came out and had some great catches and scores tonight and finished off with that pick-six.”
Pecora’s biggest play came with Richland (12-0) ahead 36-18 late in the game. As the Golden Eagles (9-3) opened a desperation drive to draw closer to Richland, Pecora stepped in to pick off a pass from Erik Wagner. From there, Pecora followed his wall to the right sideline and dashed in from 60 yards away to punctuate the Richland win.
“It came late in the game,” Pecora said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to go down or not. I wanted to finish out my senior year on this field with a touchdown so I took it.” 
Richland never trailed, taking the lead on its first possession when Tanner Solarczyk scored from 4 yards away to finish a nine-play, 79 yard drive. Pecora converted the 2-point play when a backwards pass found its way to Pecora’s hands. Pecora eluded defenders, cut to his left and efforted his way across the goal-line to cap off the run.
Tyrone answered back quickly, needing just six plays to reach the end zone thanks to James Oliver’s 54-yard romp down the visitor’s sideline. The Rams led 8-6 after Wagner’s conversion pass failed.
The Rams’ offense regained the points on its next drive, marching 90 yards with a 16-yard bubble screen to Pecora leading Richland to the end zone. Shawn Gindlesperger tacked on the first of five point-after kicks to make it 15-6.
Again, the Golden Eagles punched back. Using 13 plays to cover 66 yards, a 4-yard run from Oliver cut the Rams lead to 15-12. Richland countered with 24 seconds left in the first half as Shaffer’s 5-yard pass to Elijah Metzgar made it 22-12.
Solarczyk, who rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns, opened the second-half scoring with another 4-yard run to increase the Richland advantage to 17 points early in the third. Wagner provided Tyrone’s only points of the second half when he burrowed in from 2 yards away to cut the deficit to 29-18.
Solarczyk put the game out of reach with 2:10 remaining in the fourth, rushing in untouched from 2 yards away to make it 36-18. Within 50 seconds, Pecora’s returned interception put the cherry on top.
Shaffer rushed for 133 yards and passed for 79 more with the two touchdown passes in the Richland win.  
Oliver carried the ball 16 times for 161 yards and two scores to buoy the Golden Eagles offense.
The Rams face either Forest Hills or Central in next week’s District 6-AA championship game at Mansion Park.
“It says something about our program,” Bailey said. “The senior class is 36-4 in their three years of playing football. We’re ecstatic about that, but we’re not done yet.”