Caleb Burke set a single-game program record with 250 receiving yards, and teammate Kellan Stahl passed for 309 yards, two touchdowns, and also notched a defensive score to lead the Richland Rams to a 49-21 victory over Penns Valley on Friday night in a District 6 Class AA semifinal at Herlinger Field.
Richland moves on to face either Ligonier Valley or Bellwood-Antis in the District 6-AA championship game. The second-seeded Rams and No. 3 Blue Devils play Saturday at Weller Field in Ligonier.
“We knew it was going to be a battle tonight,” Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. “For our program, it means a lot to move onto the district final game for five times this decade says something, and we are looking forward to playing whoever it is.”
On Friday, however, Richland had a formidable foe in the Mountain League champs.
“We did a great job preparing all week,” Burke said. “They have great players and skilled players, but I got some single coverage and was able to take advantage of it tonight.”
Penns Valley started off fast with 54 yards in the air from quarterback Aaron Tobias on the opening drive ending with a 4-yard shovel pass to running back Austin Fisher to give them the early 7-0 lead.
Richland answered in just three plays.
Stahl found a wide-open Burke for a 41-yard gain down to the Penns Valley 12. Two plays later, Trevor Tustin took in from 4 yards out to level the score.
Penns Valley was able to move the ball on its next possession. The Rams marched the ball down the field in 10 plays, but a Gage Ripka field-goal attempt hit the crossbar.
Richland was forced to a three-and-out before Penns Valley began to move the ball again against the Richland defense, however Stahl picked off Tobias deep in Richland territory to end the scoring threat.
Richland went back to the air to end the quarter with two big gains of 25 and 32 yards from Stahl to Burke to put the ball in the red zone as the quarter ended.
Penns Valley stood strong with the ball inside its own 10, thwarting Richland on fourth down.
Disaster for Penns Valley on its next play when Fisher fumbled at the Penns Valley 15, with Stahl picking up the loose ball before making a man miss on his way for the defensive touchdown to give Richland its first lead at 14-7.
After Penns Valley went three-and-out on its next possession it took Richland just one play to find paydirt when Stahl connected with Burke on an 89-yard scoring strike giving the home team a 21-7 lead.
Both teams battled back-and-forth for the remainder of the half, until what appeared to be the last play of the half, a holding call in the end zone gave Richland one last chance to add to its lead.
Stahl found Koby Bailey on the untimed down from 4 yards out to stretch the Richland lead to 28-7 at the half.
Richland went to the ground game during the third to chew clock and add to its lead as Allen Mangus punched in from 3 yards away with 3:48 left in the quarter, making it 35-7.
As the game moved to the final quarter, Richland added another Mangus score from 20 yards out.
Penns Valley went back to work in the air on its next possession with Tobias finding Fisher for a 66-yard strike to break the previous PIAA record of 52 for touchdown passes in a season, while also cutting the lead to 42-14.
Richland went back to the air as well with Stahl finding Burke on the next possession for two more catches to break the Richland single-game mark for receiving yards. That set up teammate Lucas Sabol for a 5-yard run giving Richland a 49-14 lead with just under two minutes left.
Penns Valley logged its final touchdown in the waning seconds when Tobias hit Logan Snyder for a 19-yard score to set the final at 49-21.
“I am really proud of our kids,” Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias said. “Richland is a good football team, and they don’t beat themselves and we knew that coming into tonight.
“A few turnovers cost us, but I am really proud of our program and what they have accomplished this year.”