Daugherty leads Ligonier Valley back to District 6 championship game
Last year, it was West Virginia-bound Collin Smith who helped to carry the Ligonier Valley mantra all the way to the PIAA semifinals.
The Rams are on a similar path this season with other names being called.
In a rematch of a first-round game from 2016, Jackson Daugherty scored four touchdowns — three on receptions from John Caldwell — as defending champion Ligonier Valley advanced to a second straight District 6 Class 2A championship game with a 39-14 victory Friday night over visiting Cambria Heights in the semifinals.
The Rams (12-0) will face the winner of Saturday's scheduled semifinal between Bishop McCort Catholic and Westmont Hilltop on Nov. 18.
"We're going back and that was a big goal for us," Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. "We had a really tough opponent this week ... ultimately in the end, our athletes got the ball in space and made plays. Kudos to our defense and defensive line. They were outsized and outmanned."
Daugherty scored on passes of 5, 56 and 26 yards and also threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Tutino. He also scored on a 1-yard run and finished with 274 yards of offense (136 receiving, 72 passing, 66 rushing).
Caldwell completed 9 of 19 passes for 136 yards, and Tutino caught five passes for 100 yards.
"These kids work at their craft so much," Beitel said. "For most of those guys, it's not a show up in August to play football. They work 365 days, and it pays off."
The game was a rematch of Ligonier Valley's 37-0 rout of Cambria Heights in the semifinals a year ago.
"It was tough. Credit them, they made the plays when they needed to. They did a good job," Cambria Heights coach Jarrod Lewis said.
Clinging to a 19-7 lead, Ligonier Valley delivered the first of two crushing blows that put away Cambria Heights (8-4), when Caldwell lofted a 26-yard scoring pass to Daugherty in the right corner of the end zone as time was expiring in the first half.
Ligonier Valley made it 32-7 in the first minute of the second half on Sullivan Schueltz's 40-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"Those were the two biggest plays. The game was over by then," Beitel said.
Added Lewis: "That was the difference. You can't spot a good football team touchdowns like that."
Cambria Heights scored single touchdowns in the second quarter on Cody Stockley's 1-yard run and the fourth on Tyler Trybus' 2-yard run.
The freezing conditions at Weller Field couldn't stifle the enthusiasm afterwards, as Beitel tried to stay warm amid handshakes and excitement.
The thought of making another deep run in the playoffs was hitting home.
During a school record-setting run, Ligonier Valley lost to Southern Columbia in the 2016 PIAA Class 2A semifinals.
"Our senior class has worked their tails off all season long," he said. "Now we're going to defend our District 6 Double-A title, and I couldn't be prouder."
Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.