Big pass plays lift Apollo-Ridge over West Shamokin
There was some speculation that the West Shamokin at Apollo-Ridge football game wouldn't be played Friday night because of a water-treatment issue in Westmoreland County.
Not only was the regular-season finale played, but the host Vikings sent a message to the rest of Class A: they're thirsty for more.
In a matchup of WPIAL playoff teams that settled third place in the Eastern Conference, No. 9-ranked Apollo-Ridge used big pass plays to roll past the Wolves, 42-15, at Owens Field.
Senior quarterback Jesse Zelonka completed 11 of 19 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns — he still hasn't thrown an interception this season — as the Vikings moved to 7-2 overall and 6-2 in the Eastern with the senior night win.
Neither team had classes Friday; Apollo-Ridge because of the water issue and West Shamokin (6-3, 5-3) because of an in-service day. Maybe that's why Apollo-Ridge started slow — again.
“We were anxious to get out there; without school, you can't get as hyped up,” Zelonka said. “But we managed to play well without the hype. The first half I wasn't dialed in, but I took a deep breath and got back to being patient.”
Five players found the end zone for the Vikings, who scored 28 points in the third quarter to turn a one-touchdown game on its head.
Junior wideout Tre Tipton caught four passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Alex Smith grabbed four receptions for 80 yards and a score, and freshman Duane Brown had a 40-yard scoring catch.
“We have a lot of trust in our quarterback,” Tipton said. “We know we can be the best we can be if we utilize our strengths.”
During one stretch, Zelonka completed five straight passes that went for 29, 39, 30, 40 and 58 yards.
“When things kind of slowed down, you could see that Jesse was a different player,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “In that second half he showed what he can do. But that's what we expect him to do. We just have to start better. That's killing me.”
West Shamokin, which has created buzz after qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in school history, started well against the Vikings, taking a 7-0 lead on a touchdown run by quarterback Alex Lasslo. That followed a fumble by Zelonka.
But it was all Apollo-Ridge from there; the Vikings scored 42 consecutive points.
Tipton's 58-yard bomb started the mercy rule with 40.1 seconds left in the third quarter.
“In the first half we were right with them, but in the second half we made a couple of mistakes that we had a hard time overcoming,” West Shamokin coach Jon McCullough said. “We wanted to come here and make them earn what they got.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.