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Apollo-Ridge preps for playoffs by thumping West Shamokin

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By R.A. Monti
Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, 12:16 a.m.

Already assured its first playoff berth since 2007, Apollo-Ridge used Week 9 as a postseason tuneup, rolling past West Shamokin for a 49-7 victory Friday night at Jack E. Boyer Field.

The Vikings (6-3, 6-2) racked up 492 yards, and the game featured a running clock in the second half because of the mercy rule.

“This is a lot of fun,” Gatorade-soaked Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “I'm so happy for these kids after all they've been through the last couple of seasons. I think we're peaking at the right time.”

Vikings receiver Jonah Casella started the scoring when he took a handoff 89 yards — right up the gut of the defense — to make it 6-0 after one quarter.

Casella, better known for his stellar defensive play, was the game's leading rusher, totalling 152 yards on two carries and scoring touchdowns on each rush.

Vikings quarterback Jesse Zelonka rolled right and found receiver Alex Smith for a 9-yard score. Ben Gemballa's two-point conversion made the score 14-0.

Zelonka then found Tre Tipton for a 20-yard score. Tipton's two-point run made it 22-0.

On West Shamokin's next play, Tipton made the first of his two interceptions. Keeping with the theme, Zelonka took the next snap 61 yards untouched to make the score 28-0 at halftime.

Skiba praised Tipton, who had 128 receiving yards and two touchdowns, for his defensive efforts.

“He doesn't get noticed often because no one ever throws his way,” Skiba said.

Casella's 63-yard touchdown run opened the second-half scoring and gave the Vikings a 35-0 lead.

The outcome was already decided when Zelonka hit Tipton on a slant. Tipton turned up the field and out-raced everyone for a 50-yard score to make it 42-0.

Zelonka continued his monster junior season by rushing for 95 yards on eight carries and throwing for 193 yards.

He finished the regular season with 1,273 passing yards and 16 touchdowns while leading an offense that averaged 30 points.

The Wolves' Andrew Wingard scored from 8 yards to end the shutout bid. Wingard led the Wolves (2-7, 2-6) with 116 yards on 18 carries.

Skiba said he doesn't expect the Eastern Conference to get much love from the WPIAL playoff pairings committee.

“I don't think any of the teams in our conference will be seeded too high,” he said. “But that's OK. Everyone comes into the playoffs 0-0.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.

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