Because the players from what once were two different high schools came together, the Ligonier Valley Rams put it all together.
The Rams, a team that included more than a dozen players from the Laurel Valley squad that was absorbed into the Ligonier Valley program, rolled up 317 yards en route to a 54-0 romp over winless Purchase Line Friday night at Barry T. Madill Memorial Field.
Ryan Knupp rushed for 101 yards and three touchdowns. Bryan Saxton, a former Laurel Valley mainstay, rushed for a game-high 126 yards and two scores. Russell Markosky also ran for a pair of touchdowns while picking up 68 yards.
Ligonier Valley (8-1, 7-1 conference) apparently earned a first-round home game in the District 5-6 Class AA playoffs, which begin the weekend of Nov. 12-13, with the victory.
“I’m pretty certain with the win we’re guaranteed at least a No. 4 seed,” said Rams coach Roger Beitel. “It looks real good for us to be at home.”
In the interim, the Rams will play host to Derry next week.
Purchase Line finished a second consecutive winless season.
Ligonier Valley limited Purchase Line to 5 rushing yards and 81 total yards.
The Rams won six consecutive games after a 20-14 loss at eventual conference champion Penns Manor in Week 3. Beitel said his team focused on what could be in November rather than on what should have been.
“In Week 3 we lost the game; we turned the ball over five times,” Beitel said. “It’s behind us. There’s nothing you can do about things that happened in the past. I think our kids did a great job of regrouping from that loss the rest of the way. Eight wins is an outstanding season and I’m really proud of how well the kids have come together and how well they’re playing football.”
Markosky’s 4-yard touchdown run on Ligonier’s first possession followed a Dragons turnover. Knupp raced 33 yards for the first of his three scores, followed by an 8-yard TD run by Markosky and Saxton’s 15-yard touchdown run, the latter which gave the Rams a 28-0 lead after one quarter.
Knupp immediately converted the first of Luke Stolitza’s three interceptions thrown into a 46-yard scoring dash that gave Ligonier Valley a 35-0 lead with 10:23 to play in the second quarter. According to PIAA rules, however, the mercy rule does not take effect until the second half.
Saxton’s 61-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half stretched the Rams lead to 41-0. Knupp finished his night with a 25-yard TD scamper.
Jake Long’s 7-yard scoring run accounted for the game’s final score with 4:21 left in the third quarter.
After the Dragons committed the last of their five turnovers with 8:06 left, a fumble that gave the Rams a first and goal at the Purchase Line 6, Beitel asked backup quarterback Patrick Waugh to kneel on four successive plays. Waugh complied again after Ligonier Valley took over on downs at the Purchase Line 19.
“The ball’s right there. Enough is enough. We wanted to get out of here as healthy as we could,” Beitel said. “We probably could have attempted to score, but that’s probably not the right thing to do in that situation.”
The gesture was not unnoticed by Dragons coach Dave Small.
“I told Roger going through the (post game handshake) line, ‘Thank you, I appreciate it,’ ” Small said. “I mean, you got 54. How many more do you want? Actually, Roger from a year ago probably would have put two more on. But I told him, ‘Thank you.’ It shows a little class. You don’t have to run it up.”