The Elk County Catholic Crusader football squad picked up a hard-fought 7-0 victory over the visiting Ridgway Elkers on a cold and muddy Friday evening at Dutch Country Stadium in St. Marys. With the win, the Crusaders should have secured a spot in the District 9 playoffs.
"The whole team played well. It was a total team effort tonight on both sides of the ball," said ECC coach Travis Skrzypek. "They kind of believed in what we were trying to tell them on offense. They stuck with it. It was hard going in the mud tonight, but they finally punched the one (touchdown) in at the end."
Skrzypek added that the team's back-to-back loses to Brockway and Curwensville did little to deter the players' determination to finish the regular season with a victory.
"They were looking forward to this week. Coming off the two losses they were ready to get back in it, fix the mistakes and make the playoffs," Skrypek said.
The Crusader offense was led by Cole Gerber, who had 21 carries for 96 yards and ECC's only touchdown. Brock McCullough added 25 yards on 12 carries while Hank Cappiello had four carries for 4 yards.
Quarterback Mitchell Vallone was 2-of-10 for 11 yards with one interception.
Ridgway was led on the ground by Sam Delhunty, who had 11 carries for 43 yards, and Elker quarterback Jordan Lundin was 4-of-6 for 17 yards and an interception.
ECC won the coin toss and elected to receive to start the first half.
The Crusaders started their drive at their own 40-yard-line and made it all the way to the Elker's 33 before turning the ball over on downs.
The Elkers were also forced to punt the ball away after their initial drive stalled, and McCullough signaled for a fair catch at the Crusaders' own 20-yard-line. After two short losses and an incomplete pass, the Crusaders were also forced to punt; however, a bad snap resulted in Hank Cappiello fumbling the ball and Ridgway's Alex Oknefski was able to recover it at the Crusaders' 15-yard-line.
On the next play, Ridgway's Sam Delhunty made it all the way to the 3-yard-line and it looked like the Elkers were going to be the first team to make it on the board; however, Delhunty fumbled and the ball was recovered by Crusader Adam Evers, stopping Ridgway's momentum.
The Crusaders did not gain much ground on their next drive and ended up punting the ball away. The Elkers returned the ball to the Crusaders' 15-yard-line to again put themselves in good field position, but were unable to put together a solid drive. Eric Matheson's attempt of a 32-yard field goal failed, leaving the game scoreless. Neither team would come close to the endzone for the remainder of the half.
The defensive struggle continued throughout the third quarter, with neither team gaining much of an advantage.
The Crusaders' lone scoring drive came on their first possession of the fourth quarter. The team started their march to the endzone from their own 35-yard-line. It took ECC 15 plays to reach the endzone. The Crusaders were helped along by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Elkers that gave the Crusaders a first down at Ridgway's 12-yard-line. Cole Gerber picked up the remaining yards on three separate plays, finding the endzone on a 1-yard run with 2:56 left on the clock. Scott Krellner added the PAT to make the score 7-0 in favor of ECC.
The Elkers tried to rally and tie the game, but big plays by Ben Cappiello, who sacked Ridgway quarterback Jordan Lundin for a 12-yard loss on third down, and Brock McCullough, who intercepted Lundin's final pass on fourth down, helped seal the victory for the Crusaders.
ECC quarterback Mitchell Vallone took a knee to end the game.
The Crusaders finished their regular season with a record of 6-3.
Senior football players, cheerleaders and band members were honored along with their parents during a ceremony prior to the game.
Unofficial game statistics
First downs 10 4
Yards gained rushing 122 43
Passes attempted 10 6
Passes completed 2 4
Intercepted by 1 1
Yards gained passing 11 17
Total yards 133 60
Punts-average 4-24 6-24
Penalties-yards 3-12 6-57
Fumbles-lost 4-2 4-1
Offensive plays 55 39
Score by quarters
Elk Catholic 0 0 0 7 7
Ridgway 0 0 0 0 0
Fourth quarter - Elk Catholic - Cole Gerber 1-yard run. Scott Krellner kicked PAT, 7-0, 2:56.
Rushing - Elk Catholic - Cole Gerber 21 carries, 96 yards; Brock McCullough 12 carries, 25 yards; Hank Cappiello 4 carries, 4 yards; Joe McLaughlin 2 carries, 4 yards; Mitchell Vallone 6 carries, -7 yards. Ridgway - Sam Delhunty 11 carries, 43 yards; Mike Cappiello 7 carries, 25 yards; Eric Matheson 8 carries, 2 yards; Jordan Lundin 7 carries, -27 yards.
Passing - Elk Catholic - Mitchell Vallone 2-10-11. Ridgway - Jordan Lundin 4-6-17.
Receiving - Elk Catholic - Clayton Housler 2 catches, 11 yards. Ridgway - Mike Cappiello 2 catches, 15 yards; Jake Himes 1 catch, 2 yards; Eric Matheson 1 catch, 0 yards.