Apollo-Ridge, Beaver Falls bracing for Class AA shootout
Watch enough Allegheny Conference football, and you’ll see its style of play is consistent and rather simplistic: Kick it short on a squib or out of bounds — often giving up a short field — then rely on your athletes to get to the end zone.
It gives teams the ball back quickly, clock management not being high on the priority list.
The strategy, designed to keep the ball out of the hands of dangerous return guys, has produced must-see football with offensive shootouts and video game-like plays.
But does that style have staying power?
Apollo-Ridge (8-1) knows it worked all season against other local teams. Now the No. 6-seeded Vikings hope it continues to work in the first round of the Class AA playoffs against another high-energy offensive team, No. 11 Beaver Falls (7-2).
Giving up short fields against the Tigers will apply added pressure to the Vikings defense, but the Apollo-Ridge’s offensive playmakers have yet to disappoint and have traded touchdowns with any team in the Allegheny. The Vikings coaches are willing to put their trust in an offense that averages 45.7 points and 450.7 yards per game.
“We watched some film and saw (Beaver Falls) use some double tight end and single receiver sets,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “I would put my No. 1 (defensive back Tre Tipton) on anybody, and we can load the box. We’ll take our chances against anybody.”
Apollo-Ridge hasn’t punted in two weeks.
“Apollo-Ridge is as good as anyone in our conference,” Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook said. “We, like every other team, would like to avoid a shootout-type game.”
Beaver Falls has a young team, but with speed and the ability to run and throw, the Tigers could be a dangerous opening-round opponent for the Vikings.
“They have good size and some beef up front,” Skiba said. “That sophomore tight end is huge. He’ll create some matchup issues for us.”
Skiba is referring to 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end/defensive end Donovan Jeter, a blocker and occasional pass-catcher who disrupts the run on defense, especially on the edges.
Another key player is senior Javon Turner (6-0, 170), who has a team-high 24 catches for 449 yards. Senior Cordell Cummings leads the Tigers in rushing with 1,011 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The run-right, run-left Vikings also have multiple weapons. Sophomore Duane Brown is the second-leading scorer in the WPIAL with 26 touchdowns. He has rushed for 1,128 yards. Tipton, who shares time at quarterback with Brown, has 821 yards, while senior Jonah Casella has 714 yards on the ground.
Tipton averages 13.2 yards per carry, Brown 10.35.
“Tipton and Brown are both dynamic athletes,” Matsook said. “It’s hard to zero in on one. It will be a challenge for our defense to slow them down.”
The teams may not have contrasting styles, but their program histories vary greatly. Apollo-Ridge has won 191 games. In contrast, Beaver Falls has 626 wins — and three WPIAL titles, the last, however, coming in 1984.
Apollo-Ridge has just two playoff wins in school history, none at home.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.