Ligonier Valley and Fort Hill (Md.) might not be exact mirror images, but the two undefeated teams have plenty in common heading into a huge non-conference game Friday night at Weller Field.
This will be the toughest challenge of the season to date for each squad.
Ligonier coach Roger Beitel, his staff and players have heard all about Fort Hill’s storied tradition and dominating start to the season. They’ve seen the game tape, and the coaches attended a Fort Hill home game played before a huge crowd dressed in the school’s red colors. The Rams know they’ve been tabbed by some as an underdog on their home field despite Ligonier’s possessing a 4-0 record.
“We view it as a great opportunity,” Beitel said. “But by no means is it going to define the season.
“Everybody out there doesn’t give us a chance this week. We have an opportunity.
“We’re not here just for the experience. If we want a great experience I’ll take them to the movies. We want to win a football game.”
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Ligonier has outscored opponents 161-6 – opening the season with three consecutive shutouts until Saltsburg finally scored in a 49-6 game last week. The Rams’ deep backfield is led by speedy Russell Markosky, a four-year starter with more than 2,000 career rushing yards. Markosky has 439 yards on 39 carries, seventh-best in the area this season. Ligonier’s Ryan Torrance (31-422) and Anthony Tutino (23-278) also contribute to the Rams’ 1,360 rushing yards, an average of 340 a game.
Likewise, Fort Hill is deep in the backfield, with Garrett Clay gaining 557 yards on 34 carries. He has 10 touchdowns. Ryan Briner gained 368 yards on 37 attempts and scored seven touchdowns, and Dylan Clay ran for 264 yards on 13 touches. Garrett Clay’s playing time was limited in blowout wins over Silver Oak (49-0), Keyser, W.Va. (42-0), Perry Traditional Academy (50-13) and Taylor Allderdice (27-9), the last two Pittsburgh City schools.
When Garrett Clay did get 14 carries in Week 3, he gained 222 yards and scored three times.
Fort Hill has outscored opponents 162-22.
“They run the wing-T, we run the wing-T,” Beitel said. “They have two Clay brothers that are really outstanding athletes that play half and wing back. They’ve thrown less than we have, 16 times this season to our 20 times. They’re sort of balanced but make no mistake, they want the ball in the hands of the two Clay brothers.”
Fort Hill has 593 wins in its 76th season and entered this year with an all-time winning percentage of .768. The Sentinels are 104-30 since 2000.
“There are a lot of similarities and a lot of differences,” Beitel said. “In terms of differences there is no mistaking how important the game of football is in Cumberland, Md. The facility alone, I can’t even begin to tell you. There is nothing around here that comes close to it. Richland would look second rate. Most colleges don’t have the same facilities they have. We went down to the game and their bleachers go from the 10-yard line to the 10-yard line on both sides. They were filled with people wearing red. We thought we were at a Nebraska game.”
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