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High school notebook: Apollo-Ridge football making major strides

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 12:12 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba (left) works Tre Tipton (center) and other players during a practice on Aug. 15, 2012. Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch

Apollo-Ridge can take another big step toward WPIAL football relevance Friday night.

The Vikings, back in Class A for the first time in five years, will look to knock off a WPIAL power for the second straight week.

Last week it was Avonworth, which was ranked No. 9 by Trib Total Media. The Vikings (3-2, 3-1 Eastern Conference) upset the Antelopes, 28-21, in overtime at Owens Field.

Now, they'll host Springdale (3-2, 3-1) in one of the program's most intriguing games in years.

“I always believed that we had talent but just not a lot of experience. At the same time, I knew I had some hungry kids that wanted nothing else but to turn Apollo-Ridge football around, and last week we took a huge step in doing just that,” Vikings coach John Skiba said. “Last week was one of my proudest moments as a coach, seeing our players, coaches, community so excited. It was truly priceless.”

Apollo-Ridge has only six seniors on the roster, and many contributors are juniors and sophomores, so winning now could lead to an experienced sense of confidence in the future.

“We have talked a lot about what it means to play at Apollo-Ridge and how they wanted to change the culture,” Skiba said. “And for the majority of them, it was to gain respect in their school and community, that enough was enough, that the time was now to make a statement. We weren't the same old Apollo-Ridge. If things didn't go our way, we could rise and fight come out on top in the end.”

Apollo-Ridge is averaging 30 points per game and has had a quick-strike offense led by junior quarterback Jesse Zelonka, who has thrown 10 touchdowns.

But sophomore Tre Tipton has been the player to watch. The 6-foot-1, 155-pound receiver who has been seeing time in the backfield, leads the A-K Valley in receptions with 24 for 430 yards and six scores.

“The sky is the limit for him,” Skiba said. “He's mature beyond his years; he's a natural leader. The best part about him is he's a great teammate, he's not concerned with seeing his name being written in the papers. I respect the heck out of him and would do anything for him. His future is limitless.”

Look familiar?

There were no replacement referees in Apollo last week, but a play eerily similar to the one that ended their short NFL tenure took place at Owens Field.

After recovering an Avonworth muffed punt, Zelonka was intercepted in the end zone in a play that resembled the now infamous Monday Night Football debacle in the Packers-Seahawks game. Zelonka through the ball up for grabs, and it appeared receiver Dillon Tones ripped the ball away from an Avonworth defender before the two players hit the ground, but the officials awarded Avonworth a touchback.

“I though a tie went to the receiver,” Skiba said. “But it doesn't really matter.”

Shaking the Bushes

WPIAL touchdown leader Cole Bush of Burrell has been one of the area's most dominating players this season.

But with his size and ability, one would think he'd be a natural fit for two of Burrell's most successful programs — rugby and wrestling. But Bush claims he's sticking with his basics — football and basketball.

“Believe me, coaches have been on my butt about playing both,” he said. “I have been to a few (rugby) practices. I'm not sure I have what it takes to play that sport. Those guys are pretty unique.”

Bush broke Burrell's single-game touchdown mark last week when he scored six times against Kittanning. The previous record was held by four players — John Suvoy, Tom Bart, Tyler Henderson and Aaron Brown.

Bush finished with 307 yards, 13 shy of Brock White's single-game record rushing mark of 320 set in 1997.

Bush has 19 touchdowns and is averaging 209.6 yards per game.

Extra points

Plum's girls soccer team is having a hard-luck season. The Mustangs have been in five overtime games and are 1-2-2. ... Hard-hitting Riverview volleyball standout Arden Fisher had one of the better individual matches you'll see last week against Kittanning. The Robert Morris recruit posted 30 kills in a 3-2 win. ... Kiski Area standout wide receiver/defensive back Joe Brungo will be a game-time decision Friday night with a high ankle sprain he sustained last week at Pine-Richland. ...Burrell's boys fall sports teams have a combined record of 24-2-1.

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