Elkers look to get back on track vs. Bradford

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

Things didn’t go well for the Elkers last week in St. Marys where the senior dominated Dutch took advantage of miscues and their talent to roll to a 34-7 victory to up their mark to 3-0. It was the worst regular season loss for Ridgway (2-1) since a 40-0, 2013 home defeat to Allegany of Cumberland, Maryland during the first year of the co-op with Johnsonburg.

Guess what? The sun came up on Saturday and head coach Mark Heindl is pleased with how his team has responded.

“The kids learned real quick you have to have a short memory and the film doesn’t lie. They came in Monday, saw their mistakes and saw we coaches made a lot of mistakes. The beauty of it is it’s a new day and today we had a great practice and we’re looking to carry the momentum into Friday,” he said following Tuesday’s practice. “The kids know how special it is to play in the Paper City and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Elkers are determined to get back on track tonight when they host the Owls for Homecoming in the Paper City. Ridgway won the first meeting between the schools 45-14 on Sept. 25 in Bradford. The maroon-and-white held the Owls to 10 yards of total offense and one first down and dominated both side of the ball. Ben Briggs finished the game eight of 11 for 97 yards and a touchdown. Wil Howard caught three passes for 45 yards including the touchdown all in the first half. Dominic Cherry had two catches for 31 yards, and Eric Salberg two for 14 yards. Camron Marciniak caught the only Ridgway pass in the second half for a seven-yard gain. He also led the rushing attack with 31 yards on six carries. The Elkers gained 140 yards on the ground. 10 players carried the ball. Cherry rushed for 28 yards, Briggs 16, and Salberg 13. Domenic Allegretto and Cole Casilio scored on their only touches. All Ridgway players dressed saw action. Luke Zimmerman gained 17 yards on the ground late in the game, Rayce Milliard had a run for 15, QB Nate McCurdy gained six yards, and Eric Hoffman added an additional four on the ground.

“Take nothing away from St. Marys. They have a good thing going right now and they showed that on Friday while lining up 18 seniors. They did some things that haven’t been done to us in a while but at the same time we have a lot of new guys in new places that had their eyes opened as well. We told them after the game that you can either get better or worse but you can’t stay the same and to see their attitude coming in on Monday was pretty cool,” Heindl said.

Adversity is nothing new for the Elkers who last season bounced back from a 25-21 second week, late loss in Kane to win a second-straight District 9 Class AA title and fourth overall (Class A in 2016-2017). In 2018 they stayed the course despite a tough injury to co-captain Evan Furlong in Clarion to defeat Brockway for the double-A title. Furlong was able to return for the championship game. In 2016 a career ending injury to co-captain Joey Elinski launched the “Joey Strong” campaign and rallied the team to a second straight Class A title.

“Like you said the sun came up on Saturday and we told the kids Monday that if you take a look at the past four years we faced adversary every one of those years and we got into the playoffs. The adversity helped build us the rest of the year and the kids built a lot of character through it,” the Elkers head coach said.

Ridgway can punch its ticket to the 2020 District 9 Class AA playoffs with a victory tonight. The Elkers and Kane are vying for the one spot that will be filled by an IU9 “Bubble” team. The Wolves defeated Bradford 51-7 last week to run their mark to 1-2 and will be at St. Marys tonight. A win will clinch a playoff spot for Ridgway no matter what Kane does the rest of the season due to the Elkers 17-14 opening night win. The two teams were set to play in Kane Oct. 23 but that game will not be held since the playoffs will start that night. Three teams from the southern portion of the district, likely Brookville, Clarion Central, and Karns City will advance.

“The kids realize that a win Friday and they clinch a double-A playoff spot and that’s big. To do it five years in a row is hard to do for any program. It’s something the kids have earned and we’re determined to do it. A win opens up the door for a lot of things. To get in the playoffs is a pretty cool thing and that’s what are main focus is,” Heindl said.

The Elkers coach who has 77 career wins took one last look back at St. Marys while being optimistic about his team turning things around.

“The beauty of it is the kids were pretty humbled by it. They realized we did some things that we normally don’t do but they’re fixable things. It wasn’t like we were just over powered (14-7 at the half). We’re looking forward to Bradford on Friday to clean things up and take it from there,” he said.

Ridgway will be looking for its 17th-straight home win and seventh straight in Johnsonburg where Heindl loves to take his team.

“The Paper City has always been special. Not only just for our kids (Ridgway) but the Johnsonburg kids as well. It’s a special feeling for them because they know for some of them it’s the last time they’re going to get the opportunity to play there especially for the kids that came all the way up from the Shamrock program. It’s a big thing to come out of that tunnel. It makes the hair stick up on the back of your neck. It’s one of those experiences very few get and the kids cherish every part of it,” Heindl said. J-Burg seniors include Cole Casilio, Cole Haight, Isaac Rose, and Isaac Zimmerman.

The 2020 Johnsonburg Homecoming candidates include Emma King, the daughter of Mike and Jaci King, who will be escorted by Jacob Newman, the son of John Newman and Cindy Allegretto; Ella Stauffer, the daughter of Troy Stauffer and Sara Warmbrodt, who will be escorted by Eric Christoff, the son of Corine and Bill Christoff; Mackenzie Sallack, the daughter of Trista and Dave Sallack, who will be escorted by Hayden Welsh, the son of Jim and Stephanie Welsh; Megan Bienkowski, the daughter of Mark and Cecilia Bienkowski, who will be escorted by Sean Fitch, the son of Tim and Noreen Fitch; Mackenzie Freeman, the daughter of Stefanie Morrison, who will be escorted by Nolan Shaffer, the son of David and Kerri Shaffer; and Haylee Zimmerman, the daughter of Scott and Amy Zimmerman, who will be escorted by John Douglas Jr., the son of John and Pam Douglas. The queen will be crowned prior to the kickoff of tonight’s game. The 2019 Johnsonburg Homecoming Queen Haylee Cherry, the daughter of Dan and Julie Cherry, will crown the new Queen. She will be escorted by former Elker Cole Kilhoffer, the son of Matt and Rachel Kilhoffer. The flower girl will be Emma Charney, the daughter of Charles and Megan Charney, and the crown bearer will be Porter Morrison, the son of Stefanie Morrison and Keith Morrison.