Ligonier Valley rallies past Blairville
Ligonier Valley star tight end Alec Bloom had a quiet offensive night. But his lone, 9-yard catch was a big one.
The 6-foot-7 UConn recruit made a leaping, fourth-quarter catch of Scott Fennell's pass in the corner of the end zone to propel the Rams (3-0) to a come-from-behind 21-17 Heritage Conference victory at Blairsville (2-1) in front of a capacity crowd.
Bloom outjumped three defenders to secure the catch.
“That's the type of catch a big player makes,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “They did a lot of things to take him away tonight and we couldn't get him the ball, but he made a heck of a catch there when we really needed it.”
After a sluggish first half, the Rams were able to take control of the game in the second half behind a hard-hitting defense.
But the Bobcats made them work for everything.
Blairsville shot out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead on a 2-yard run by quarterback Scott Thompson and a 25-yard field goal from Andrew Stipcack.
Ligonier responded with an 84-yard kickoff return by Dan Croyle. The Rams then attempted an onside kick which Blairsville recovered. Two plays later, Thompson hit Deion Robinson for a 60-yard touchdown pass and a 17-6 lead.
Late in the second quarter, Blairsville lined up to kick a field goal. After a Ligonier timeout, the Bobcats tried to score by running another play. The run came up short as the first half ended.
It was a huge momentum shift in the game.
“We really had an opportunities to win the game,” Blairsville coach Rick Artley said. “We lost some key guys there in the first half with injuries, and we knew it was going to change the flow of the game so we wanted to punch it in there, but it didn't work.”
The Rams opened the second half with a 1-yard touchdown run by Fennell, who added a 2-point conversion to make it 17-14.
“The first half we just couldn't execute anything,” Beitel said. “We knew this was going to be a very tough game and at halftime we just told the kids that we're going to crawl back into it. I couldn't be prouder of the way they didn't hang their heads, and they just kept playing hard football. We definitely had chances.”
Blairsville had another scoring chance, but its drive stalled at the 11-yard line with less than two minutes to go.
The Bobcats had little trouble moving the ball in the first half, but slowed in the second. Thompson finished 13 of 21 for 231 yards, while Robinson carried 22 times for 85 yards and also caught four passes for 87 yards.
“We were a bit out of character tonight,” Beitel said. “It took us a while to get going but were slowly able to get going and get it done. It's a great win.”
Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.