When Elizabeth Forward and Ringgold meet in a key Big Nine Conference game at Joe Montana Field Friday night, those with weak hearts may want skip this one.
That’s because the teams feature the most explosive players in the conference this side of Jimmy Wheeler.
The Warriors (4-2, 4-2) have multi-talented quarterback JaQuan Davidson, big-play receiver Matt Bernadowski and slippery running backs Ryan Wardropper and Jalen French.
The Rams (4-2, 4-2) have possibly the most dynamic quarterback in the conference in Nico Law and a pair of receivers in Dayshore Majors and Alan Pritchett who would cause any defensive coordinator nightmares. They also have a freshman running back, Chacar Berry, who is quickly becoming a breakaway threat on several levels.
And there is a little matter of great importance on this game.
With both teams tied for third in the conference, the winner will have a distinct advantage on the third seed out of the conference, which brings with it a better draw in the WPIAL playoffs.
“There’s no question this is a big, big game for both teams,” Ringgold coach Matt Humbert said. “The winner will walk away from this game in pretty good shape behind TJ and West Mifflin.”
When asked about the big-play capabilities of the two teams, Humbert said the similarities are scary.
“I don’t want to say we are evenly matched, but both teams have some parallels with their skill sets,” he said. “There are a lot of explosive players on each team for sure.”
If there is one thing the teams have in common, both of their offenses start with very dangerous and elusive quarterbacks who are the top two signal callers in the league in terms of statistics.
Davidson has run and passed for a combined 1,148 yards. He has thrown for nine touchdowns and rushed for five more.
His top receiver is Bernadowski, who has caught 18 passes for 396 yards (22.0 avg.) and has scored 15 touchdowns.
“JaQuan is a lot like Nico in that he can hurt you with his arm and legs,” Humbert said. “We definitely have to make sure when we get a hand on him we are secure enough to bring him down.”
Law, meanwhile, has been setting defenses ablaze every week. He has completed 59 of 115 passes for 1,049 yards and 12 TDs. He also far and away is the Rams’ leading rusher with 709 yards on 70 carries (10.1 avg.) and has scored seven TDs.
Pritchett and Majors both average more than 20 yards per reception and have combined to score 11 TDs.
Berry, a freshman, averages 14.5 yards on 11 receptions and has rushed for 242 yards while scoring five TDs.
“This game looks like a good, old-fashioned matchup of good teams,” Humbert said. “It’s a pretty good rivalry.
“We are trying not to put too much emphasis on Friday’s game, but there is no denying there is a lot riding for both teams.”
A year ago, EF knocked off Ringgold, 19-7, but the Rams have won three of five matchups between the teams dating back to 2008.
However, the 2013 matchup is the biggest yet.
And probably the most stressful.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or [email protected].