Ligonier Valley registered its third shutout to open the season, stifling Penns Manor, 28-0, Friday night, the Rams’ eighth consecutive Heritage Conference victory dating to a six-point loss to the Comets last September.
The latest rout of an opponent for Ligonier Valley (3-0, 3-0) occurred at home and followed lopsided victories over Northern Cambria and Homer-Center by a combined, 84-0.
All of Ligonier Valley’s points came in the first half against a Penns Manor team that lost just once a year ago and won the Heritage Conference title. The Comets (2-1, 2-1) had beaten their first two opponents this year by a combined 62-7.
“We wanted to deliver the knockout punch in the second half, but we didn’t do it,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “We weren’t necessarily as concerned about a shutout as we were a letdown. They were the champions, and we told our players that champions are capable of getting up off the ground.”
But the knockout punch was there just the same. Russell Markosky’s 57-yard punt return for a touchdown gave Ligonier Valley a 21-0 lead at the start of the second half and derailed Penns Manor’s bid to contend.
“It’s going to be hard for anyone to beat them in the conference,” Penns Manor coach Bill Packer said.
Ligonier Valley avenged a bitter, 20-14 loss to Penns Manor a year ago by containing dangerous running quarterback Danny Ferens, who was held to a modest 62 yards rushing after averaging 12.4 yards per carry in the first two games.
“Just a phenomenal effort by kid after kid after kid,” Beitel said.
Ferens entered the game with more yards rushing (309) than passing (227).
“We got down to business early in the week and practiced well. I was there,” Beitel said. “Our guys executed the plan great tonight. We put Ryan Knupp on Ferens and he went where Ferens went. Ferens was in a different environment than he was used to. Our defense swarmed.”
And while the defense is enjoying heightened success early on, the Ligonier Valley offense was impressive in racing to a big lead and overwhelming Penns Manor from the opening kickoff.
“Up front, they controlled the line of scrimmage. A great job by our offensive line,” Beitel said.
Ryan Torrance raced 30 yards for a touchdown just 3:30 into the game to give Ligonier Valley a 7-0 lead. Anthony Tutino’s 14-yard scoring run with 2:04 remaining in the first quarter made it 14-0.
Following Markosky’s punt return, quarterback Knupp’s 1-yard sneak 2:19 before halftime put the Rams ahead, 28-0.
Penns Manor began the second half hoping to ignite a rally. The Comets took the opening kickoff to the Ligonier Valley 22 before running out of downs.
From there, the second half wound up scoreless and Ligonier Valley remained unscored upon.