Ligonier Valley wins, falls short in title chase
NORTHERN CAMBRIA — Ryan Torrance's grimy uniform helped to illuminate his postgame grin as the Ligonier Valley running back basked in the afterglow of his 153-yard rushing performance that powered the Rams to a 36-26 victory over Northern Cambria on Friday night.
Too bad for Torrance and his teammates that they couldn't come away with another Heritage Conference title.
Despite winning its final league game, Ligonier Valley couldn't retain the title because Penns Manor, the only team to beat the Rams this season, went on to beat Homer-Center and claim the crown.
“We did our part tonight,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel told his players moments after Torrance ran over Northern Cambria with 31 carries and three touchdowns, and quarterback Scott Fennell turned in an efficient effort, passing for 105 yards on 6 of 10 completions and scoring on two touchdown runs. “We aren't the champs anymore, but as far as I'm concerned, we are. We beat the team that beat the champs.”
Penns Manor's lone loss came in its opener at Northern Cambria, 28-20, on Aug. 31.
“The top teams in this league are good,” Beitel said. “Penns Manor returned 18 kids from a team that was a game away from playing for the (Class A) state championship last season.”
With the Heritage Conference decided, Torrance said it's time to move on, starting with Ligonier Valley's 10th and final regular-season game on Friday at home against Bald Eagle Area.
“We haven't gone very far in the playoffs. We want to win a District 6 championship,” said Torrance, who returned from a one-game PIAA-mandated suspension after being ejected from Ligonier Valley's 20-11 loss to Penns Manor on Oct. 12.
Ligonier Valley (8-1, 7-1) wasted no time jumping on Northern Cambria, scoring twice in a span of 3:06 to take a 14-0 lead. Torrance scored on a 2-yard run after his 59-yard burst down the sideline put the Rams in business.
He capped a short 11-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring run after the Rams recovered a Northern Cambria fumble on the Colts' first possession.
Northern Cambria (6-3, 6-2) scored just before the first quarter ended on Nate Zachesky's 8-yard run to close within 14-6.
The teams traded second-quarter touchdowns — Fennell's 7-yard keeper for Ligonier Valley and Zachesky's 2-yard run for Northern Cambria — and the Rams led at halftime, 22-12.
Fennell scored again for Ligonier Valley, crossing on a 6-yard run in the third quarter to increase the Rams' lead to 29-12 before Northern Cambria quarterback Jeff Hogan scored on a 1-yard run after firing a 26-yard pass to Dartagnan Suchar, closing the gap to 29-18.
The teams again traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with Ligonier Valley opening up a 36-18 cushion when Torrance scored on a 5-yard run.
A 1-yard touchdown run by Zachesky, who finished with 113 yards rushing, with 2:49 remaining for Northern Cambria closed out the scoring.
“We got knocked down in the seventh round (game), but we got back up,” Beitel said. “Kudos to Penns Manor and to our kids, too. This was a great team effort, a real balanced attack. We ran the ball well and passed it well, too. This is a tough place to play.”
Just ask the Heritage Conference champs.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5617.