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Apollo-Ridge runs into wall

| Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006

It took more than three quarters for a young Apollo-Ridge team to get on the board against a stifling Monaca defense Friday night.

It did so midway through the fourth quarter on a Michael Coleman touchdown run.

It was a rare bright spot in a 26-8 game that was dominated by a run-happy Monaca team at Monaca Memorial Stadium.

The Indians used a collection of talented runners to wear down the Apollo-Ridge defensive front.

"When you're young, you've got to do a lot of growing up really fast," Apollo-Ridge coach Jerry Moore said. "We have some talent, and you expect them to be a little bit further ahead than they are. The biggest thing is to get some experience."

Youth and inexperience shone through for Apollo-Ridge, a 2005 WPIAL playoff team. The team fumbled the ball away at its own 40-yard line late in the first quarter, setting up Monaca's first touchdown drive.

Apollo-Ridge tried to mimic Monaca's steady running attack but amassed only one first down in the first half.

"We've got a lot of people banged up," Moore said. "There were a lot of people out there where they weren't supposed to be, necessarily. We're trying to put together a team that's young and make a makeshift team, too."

Tony Caltury opened the second quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run, capping the 40-yard Monaca drive.

Monaca made it 12-0 when Nick Phillips scored from 2 yards out to close out the first half, capping a 61-yard drive. Brett Mazine's completion to Andy Ronczka for the two-point conversion gave Monaca 14-0 lead.

Zach Theil set the tone for Monaca on the opening kick off. He returned the ball to the Monaca 43-yard line. Nick Phillips had 27 yards on the ground, as Monaca marched down to the Apollo-Ridge 24-yard line before turning the ball over on a botched snap.

Senior running back and linebacker Coleman remained one of the consistent bright spots for Apollo-Ridge.

He led both teams with 83 yards rushing and contributed on defense.

Monaca blew the game open on their first drive of the third quarter. Coach Shawn McCreary opened up what had been a run-only offense in the first half. Mazine completed two passes, and Caltury scored his second touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run.

The struggles continued for Apollo-Ridge on the ensuing kickoff. The ball bounced along the Monaca sideline before being recovered by the Indians on the Apollo-Ridge 32-yard line.

Mazine completed a 6-yard pass to Andy Ronczka to build the Monaca lead to 26-0 late in the third quarter.

Apollo-Ridge entered 2006 with its 2005 WPIAL playoff berth fresh in the players' minds. Still, with the losses of quarterback Gary Miller and tailback Doug Bandurak to graduation, uncertainty reigns for a team that will rely on youth to make a return trip to the postseason.

Coleman provided a spark and maybe some potential, but for the most part, this was a night Apollo-Ridge fans will hope to forget as they move forward in 2006.

"Our kids never gave up," Moore said. "Basically, we've got to grow up, and if we grow up fast enough, we'll be OK."

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