Elizabeth Forward closes in on postseason berth
For the first time in seven years, Elizabeth Forward is likely to be among the Class AAA teams in the WPIAL football playoffs.
Quarterback JaQuan Davidson carried 27 times for 138 yards, and backup running back Ryan Wardropper ran 21 times for 134 yards, as the Warriors took advantage of great field position all game and knocked off visiting Ringgold, 19-7, Friday.
Based on various tiebreaker scenarios in the conference, the Warriors are almost guaranteed a playoff berth regardless of how they finish the season, but they can solidify their standing with a win against Albert Gallatin next week.
“We set the goal of getting into the playoffs,” Warriors coach Mike LeDonne said. “We knew that even if we fell short tonight, we had a good shot, but we wanted to take care of business, even being shorthanded. We played without our stud (Rex Pearce), and they played most of the game without theirs.”
Ringgold running back Demetrius Louis left the game in the first quarter after only two carries. He had just returned to the lineup after missing last week's game against Albert Gallatin with a groin injury.
Pearce also missed last week's game for Elizabeth Forward.
“He couldn't go,” LeDonne said of Pearce. “We've been preaching family all year long, and that's how a family responds. You fill the spot when a (guy) goes down. They did a (heck) of a job, and I'm really proud of them.”
Neither team got off to the start they wanted.
Ringgold went four-and-out on their first drive. The Warriors made it to the Ringgold 16-yard line but turned it over on downs after Davidson threw an illegal forward pass.
EF struck on their next drive when Wardropper raced 39 yards to the Ringgold 6. Davidson cashed in with his first of two rushing touchdowns two plays later.
EF's defense harassed Rams quarterback Nico Law. Max Strotman finished with three sacks, and Alex Smith and Adam Oatman each had with one.
“They have a lot of team speed over there,” LeDonne said of the Rams. “Max played great out of the defensive end spot. We pride ourselves on being a physical football team. We're all underclassmen on the D-line. They've been playing well, and I expect we should see some all-conference players on that unit.”
Ringgold took advantage of a muffed punt in the second quarter and made it to the Elizabeth Forward 2, but a big hit on Law by Oatman on fourth-and-1 gave the ball back to the Warriors.
“I'm not going to make excuses,” Ringgold coach Matt Humbert said. “But we shot ourselves in the foot again. We were in positions to score a couple of times and take advantage of their mistakes, and we couldn't capitalize on our opportunities. When you're on the 2, you have to punch it in.”
Ten consecutive runs by Davidson and Wardropper set up a 40-yard touchdown pass from Davidson to Matt Berndowski with 49 seconds left in the half to give the Warriors a 13-0 lead.
EF drove deep into Rams territory to start the second half but had a field goal partially blocked. Law took advantage, calling his own number for a 29-yard run and hitting Jacob Girard for a 43-yard gain. Those two plays set up Law 16-yard run to make it 13-7.
The Warriors, who finished 2-17 the past two seasons, embarked on a 72-yard, 11-play drive capped by Davidson's 12th rushing touchdown of the season to give the Warriors the final score of the night.
“That drive was huge,” LeDonne said. “We had the potential to put the dagger in them, but we missed the field goal. That's part of the game. How do you battle back from adversity? That was the theme of this game. And we battled back. We strive to put up a goose egg on that board every game, and tonight we only gave up seven to a team that has a lot of talent. We'll take that final score that's on that scoreboard tonight.”
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2667 or email@example.com.