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Apollo-Ridge, Tipton trounce Leechburg

| Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, 11:44 p.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Tre Tipton leaps over Leechburg defender Matt Rzewnicki during the first half Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, at Veterans Memorial Field in Leechburg.

On offense, defense and special teams, emerging Apollo-Ridge sophomore Tre Tipton is a hard player to keep out of the spotlight.

Last night was no exception.

Key touchdowns on two big plays from Tipton — a 65-yard kickoff return and a 35-yard interception return — paced the Vikings to a 37-7 victory over host Leechburg on Friday night in Class A Eastern Conference play at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“He's definitely an absolute playmaker. He's a guy we always try to get the ball to,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “He does things like that; he's just a naturally gifted athlete.”

Early in the second quarter, Leechburg (1-3, 1-2) gave reason for optimism to a large Homecoming crowd. Following a fumble recovery by Leechburg senior lineman Devin Dunmire deep in Apollo-Ridge territory, senior Jacob Iellmo connected with senior Tyler Dubovi on a 19-yard pass to tie the score at 7-7.

Iellmo and Dubovi rotated at quarterback, wide receiver and running back, as part of a Leechburg offense that threw a number of looks at Apollo-Ridge (2-2, 2-1).

“We did more rotation than we've done,” Leechburg coach Mark George said. “We try to take advantage of their abilities in different formations.”

Leechburg outgained Apollo-Ridge, 129-98, in the first half. But the visitors thrived on special teams and took advantage of Blue Devils turnovers. The Vikings took a 22-7 lead into the locker room thanks to solid field position and a handful of big plays, including Tipton's kickoff return and a momentum-stifling interception by sophomore defensive back Alex Smith.

“That interception was a big turnover, for us to get the ball back right there,” Skiba said. “Alex is another sophomore. The future looks really good, but we've got to keep building this year.”

In the third quarter, after a converting a fourth-and-inches from its 11, Leechburg went to the air on the next play. That's when Tipton came up with the Vikings' second interception and returned it 35 yards for a 30-7 lead.

Tipton finished with three catches for 46 yards.

“I don't know if he even knows (how good he can be) yet,” Skiba said. “I know he loves basketball, he loves the game. But I always tell him, ‘Don't sell yourself short,' because he can play this sport pretty darn well, too.”

Skiba hopes the Vikings can use the victory to build momentum as they enter a difficult stretch in their schedule, hosting No. 6 Avonworth next Friday and Springdale the following week.

“We need to take a big step forward next week and not take a step back like we have before.” Skiba said. “We need to be focused next week and take a very good team on at our place.”

Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.

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