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Defending conference champion Ligonier Valley returns just 5 starters

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 7:24 p.m.
Ligonier Valley head football coach Roger Beitel photographed at camp on August 14, 2012 in Ligonier.
Ligonier Valley Connor Maust photographed at camp on August 14, 2012 in Ligonier.

More players and more games suit Ligonier Valley's Roger Beitel just fine.

The coach of the only Class AA program in the otherwise Class A Heritage Conference of District 6 welcomes the changes that take effect this season in the conference.

The league voted to make freshmen eligible for varsity rosters for the first time, and the district is mandating a 10-game regular-season schedule for all teams.

“For the last several years, we've been the Double-A team who didn't get any power points in Week 10,” Beitel said, even though Ligonier Valley was the only team in the conference to play 10 regular-season games in hopes of gaining points for the Class AA playoffs.

“The other Heritage schools were either top seeds and had a bye week or weren't playing because they didn't qualify for the playoffs. We never had a chance to earn any power points.”

Heritage Conference schools, all of which are based in Indiana and Westmoreland counties, are working with members of the Western Pennsylvania Athletic Conference, whose schools are based in Cambria and Somerset counties, to fill the dates.

“We've been playing a 10th game for five years,” Beitel said. “We like it that way.”

Ligonier Valley, the defending regular-season conference champion, returns just five starters — one who plays on both sides — from a team that rolled through the Heritage Conference schedule unscathed.

The Rams' 8-3 record included regular-season losses to Cumberland (Md.) Fort Hill and Philipsburg-Osceola and an eye-opening, 50-22 decision to Richland in the first round of the District 6-AA playoffs.

Ligonier Valley, a Class AA school since 2008, further expanded its enrollment by merging with Class A Laurel Valley in 2010. Expanding his team's roster can't hurt, Beitel said, referring to a chance for more depth.

Defensive back Connor Maust is back after registering 71 stops a year, and Maddy Grimm also returns after scoring 46 points as a junior.

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