SALTSBURG – Success in football can be broken down into excellence in execution combined with the talent of the players working in harmony. Dwayne Johnson once said “I’m always asked, ‘What’s the secret to success?’ But there are no secrets. Be humble. Be hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.”
And on a brisk September night, the Ligonier Valley Rams showed the Saltsburg Trojans just how hungry they were.
It was the Rams’ first action in two weeks after they received a forfeit from United for their Week 3 contest on Sept. 7.
“We’re going to play, and we’re not going to apologize for anything,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said after the Rams routed the Trojans, 57-12.
“Our kids deserve to play just like everybody else.”
Beitel seemed to be referring to the massive difference in talent the two teams seemed to have, Ligonier Valley’s players seemingly having a chasm in terms of overall talent compared to Saltsburg, who were outmatched seemingly everywhere on the field.
Saltsburg shook the Rams for the first few minutes, holding them to a field goal and scoring on a deep touchdown thrown by Josh Gibbons to Nathan Slapinski that saw Slapinski follow downfield blocks, almost get caught but retain his balance and outrun the defense to an 89-yard score.
It would, unfortunately, be the last thing the home crowd had to cheer about.
“That was huge, I can’t imagine them being down too much ever,” Saltsburg coach Mike Leasure said.
“I’m proud of our kids for the way they came out and battled.”
Gibbons had a spotty night other than the long touchdown, however.
His first half was marred with turnovers, deep pass after deep pass lofted into the hands of Rams defenders, four of them in the first half.
“We had some athletes that can make plays, but they got so much pressure,” Leasure said of his quarterback’s rough first half. “They got pressure, we had to throw the ball quick and Josh had to get the ball out of his hands.”
There would be no such issues for Ligonier Valley, throwing well, but primarily imposing their will with their host of impressive running backs, including Kyrie Miller, who barely had to touch the ball to rack up massive yardage and several scores. It wasn’t just Miller, seemingly any running back and the quarterbacks all had success running behind this Division I linemen crew that road-graded the Rams to their fourth win of the season.
“He’s a special back, and I feel bad for him,” Beitel said of Miller. “You look and he really deserves an opportunity to get touches and he doesn’t. He had a lot of yards, and then we get ahead and pull him.”
Miller displayed his high level of burst, vision and balance as he shifted between the tackles, following excellent blocking to huge chunk gains on nearly every carry he had.
He was difficult to bring down when the Trojans did manage to get ahold of him, shaking off defenders and staying on his feet and rarely, if ever, falling on first contact.
“We watched him on film. … I mean, the Miller kid is an extremely tough running back.” Leasure said.
“You throw their line in, three Division I linemen, that’s a pretty tough tandem.”
There wasn’t much that Saltsburg’s defensive front could do to move the line or stop the backs, resulting in an ugly game that they’ll try to put behind them as the Rams move on to 4-0 and the Trojans look to recover after falling to 2-2.