The colors are the same, the district is the same and the goal is the same as Ligonier Valley travels north on Route 711 to square off with rival Laurel Valley.

Laurel Valley and Ligonier Valley have faced off only 15 times since 1956 as a result of a 33-year hiatus that began in 1966 when the schools merged to form the Ligonier Valley School District. The Rams hold an 8-7 series edge, including victories in the last six meetings dating back to 1965, when the Rams topped the Mounties 19-14.

In 2000 Ligonier Valley joined as the 10th member of the Heritage Conference, requiring the schools to meet again on the gridiron. In the five meetings since, Laurel Valley has outscored Ligonier Valley 174-24 with three shutouts, including last season’s 37-0 triumph.

“We haven’t beaten them in five years,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “It’s a bigger game, but by the same token if we were 0-8 or 4-4, it’s big because we haven’t beaten them in five years.”

The low number of meetings or the recent one-sidedness has no effect on the respect the schools have for each other.

“We really haven’t said much about the history of the series,” Laurel Valley coach Jerry Page said. “Our kids know that we’ve won the last five games, but they also know that Ligonier is a much-improved team.”

A concern for Page is Ligonier Valley’s defense, which has forced a conference-high 27 turnovers in eight games.

“They give up some points but they’re a hard-hitting team,” Page said. “They’re better disciplined than they have been. It’s a very experienced football team. You look for weak spots and you can’t find any.”

Sophomore Brandon Boyd has 10 interceptions on the year, breaking the conference’s previous total of nine set by Nick Jones in 2002. Teammates Jake Gabelt, Kyle Fritz and Jon Emert each have three picks. Boyd also has three fumble recoveries to his credit.

Overall, the Mounties have picked off 21 passes this year with an assist going to Ligonier Valley’s runstoppers up front. Matt Pribisco leads Ligonier Valley with five sacks on the season.

“We’ve been able to force teams to throw because they can’t run against our front,” Beitel said. “And that puts them in a very vulnerable position where they have to pass, and when a team throws more, there’s a better chance to intercept passes.”

Beitel’s concern is a Laurel Valley rushing attack that has moved the ball on the ground and has passed with efficiency when needed.

That rushing attack features senior fullback Scott Saxton (389 yards, 100 carries), Justin Shetler (328 on 102) and Matt Dubics. Quarterback Adam Gibson has thrown 47 completions for 597 yards on 97 attempts with Shetler as his favorite target. The duo has connected 16 times, gaining 218 yards.

The Mounties, also adept at moving the ball on the ground, are led by Clark Cairns’ 520 rushing yards. Steve Hunt (467 yards) and quarterback Jon Cotchen (270) have also chewed up yardage on the ground, gaining praise from Page.

Through the air, Cotchen has passed for 268 yards.

On defense the Rams feature linebacker Shane Dickert, who is among the area leaders in tackles with 109 total. Eric Hageder leads the Rams up front with six sacks on the season.

In other action:

- Meyersdale at Ferndale: The Red Raiders (4-4), who have already punched their ticket for a District 5 Class A playoff appearance next week, travel to Ferndale for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

Meyersdale is coming off a 38-8 triumph over Conemaugh Township while Ferndale (1-7) fell to Windber. The Yellow Jackets are looking to play spoiler to Meyersdale’s first winning regular season since 2002, when the Red Raiders finished 5-4.

Last season Ferndale beat Meyersdale 8-0 to close out the year.

- Saltsburg at United: It’s a simple mission for the Lions: Win and they’re in the District 6 Class A playoffs. What lies ahead of Chris Matava’s squad is a spunky Saltsburg (1-7) that is looking to close out the season on an upswing after suffering six consecutive losses.

United, fresh off of a 31-8 win at Northern Cambria last Friday, will feed the Saltsburg defensive front a steady diet of Adam Mack and Zack Stefanko, both of whom rushed for over 100 yards against the Colts. With quarterback Sean Domer and receiver Kevin Wissinger, the Lions can show balance if needed.

The Trojans’ lone win of the season was a 21-20 double-overtime victory over Ligonier Valley in Week 2.

United topped the Trojans 40-22 at Saltsburg last season.

- Rockwood at Bishop Walsh (Md.): The Rockets (6-2) are enjoying their best season on the varsity level since the inception of their program. Since dropping decisions in Weeks 3 and 4, the Rockets have soared to four straight wins and can secure the second seed in the District 5-A playoffs with a win today. During the stretch, Rockwood has yet to allow more than 18 points while averaging 35.3 points per game, outscoring their foes 133-53.

The Spartans, who started the season with only 18 players on their varsity roster, own an 0-9 record with the most recent loss coming on Oct. 20 – a 54-21 loss to St. James (Md.). In eight of its nine games, Bishop Walsh has allowed 33 or more points with Northern Garrett (Md.) hanging 69 on the Spartans.

Last week Rockwood topped Hundred (W.Va.) 34-16.

The Rockets fell to Bishop Walsh 33-21 last season.

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