Apollo-Ridge rolls to playoffs
Apollo-Ridge's sterling defensive performance Friday night was rewarded with a WPIAL playoff berth.
The Vikings held Northgate to minus-33 yards net rushing in the first half and rolled to a 46-6 victory over Northgate before a large homecoming night crowd at Owens Field.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Apollo-Ridge defense and special teams set up three scoring drives in the second period that led to 32 points by halftime.
“They've played well all year,” said Vikings coach John Skiba. “It's not like it's anything new for us. We've played sound defense all year. Coach (Bruce) Yard has a great game plan every week.”
“It's just the unity on defense,” defensive captain Ben Gembella said. “It's like a brotherhood. We're there for the greater good of the team. Coach Yard does a great job. He's like a father to me.”
Jesse Zelonka threw for 141 yards and three touchdowns to Tre' Tipton as the Vikings (4-2, 5-2) secured the 11th WPIAL playoff berth in school history.
Northgate, after winning the season's opener at Riverview, fell to 1-5, 1-6.
Late in the first quarter, Apollo-Ridge's defense stopped Northgate for three straight losses, setting up good field position at the Flames' 35.
On the second play of the second quarter, Zelonka hit Tipton with a touch pass to begin the scoring barrage.
After the next defensive stop, freshman Duane Brown's 57-yard punt return set up a short, 13-yard scoring drive with Lonny Wells tallying from 8 yards out.
Another good defensive effort resulted in a 27-yard field goal by Wells.
After two more Vikings sacks, Brown picked off a pass at the 43 and raced 57 yards for a touchdown to make it 26-0.
“He's a heckuva player,” Skiba said of Wells. “Offense, defense, special teams, he does a lot of things for us. Glad I have him for another three years.”
A Wells sack on fourth down set up a 53-yard drive in 47 seconds, with Tipton snaring a 15-yard pass as time expired in the half.
Tipton capped an eight-play drive after the second-half kickoff with a 12-yard pass from Zelonka to put the PIAA's continuous-clock rules in effect.
Quarterback Johnny Camello's 16-yard scramble accounted for the lone Northgate score.
George Guido is a freelance writer.