HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: WPIAL CLASS A PLAYOFFS -- Apollo-Ridge facing 'formidable' test in Sto-Rox, Williams
They’re the No. 4-ranked team in the state, according to the PA Football News.
They’re undefeated and boast the highest-scoring offense in the WPIAL Class A ranks.
And their high-powered offense runs through the most prolific passer in WPIAL history and one of the best in Pennsylvania history.
They’re the Sto-Rox Vikings, and they’re a darn good team.
Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba knows it. But Skiba also knows his Vikings — the Apollo-Ridge Vikings — are a pretty good team, too, and he doesn’t want them to forget it as they get ready to take on Sto-Rox in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals Friday night.
“Obviously, they’re a very, very good team,” Skiba said. “They’ve been in the WPIAL final the last two years. They’re extremely explosive and skilled. They play both sides of the ball extremely well.
“But I’m hoping we understand how good we are. We’re a pretty good team, and we’re pretty skilled as well. They are skilled, and they’re good, they pressure guys, they come after you. The kids are excited. This would be a major jump for our program. This would be a big one to hang your hat on.”
The top seed in the Class A field, Sto-Rox has a spotless 10-0 record and an offense averaging 45.9 points per game.
Senior quarterback Lenny Williams runs the show, and he’s one of the best in the history of the Keystone State.
Last week, in Sto-Rox’s first-round playoff win over Avella, Williams moved into eighth place in passing yards in state history. Last month, he broke the WPIAL career records for passing yards and passing touchdowns, becoming just the second quarterback in the storied history of the WPIAL to eclipse 7,000 career passing yards.
“He’s the all-time leading WPIAL passer, so we know what we’re going up against is pretty formidable,” Skiba said.
But Skiba feels pretty good about his quarterback, too.
Senior Jesse Zelonka might not have the same eye-popping numbers Williams does, but he’s having quite a season. He has completed 55 percent of his passes (85 of 154) for 1,466 yards, and he hasn’t thrown an interception while firing 22 touchdowns.
That’s in addition to being the team’s leading rusher with 742 yards.
“He accounts for 2,200 yards,” Skiba said. “It’s been his show on offense. I couldn’t be any happier with him and his numbers. But his numbers could be better. We’ve done things where we weren’t sharp in a few games, and his numbers could be even bigger. That’s what’s scary.”
Zelonka has a pair of big-play receivers in Alex Smith and Tre Tipton and a balanced but formidable running attack that averages 209.8 yards per game. Jonah Casella is second with 399 rushing yards, and three other backs have 200 or more yards, but none have more than 48 carries.
But what often goes unnoticed, Skiba said, is the solid play of the Vikings’ defense.
“We’ve played pretty good defense,” Skiba said. “They don’t get enough credit.”
Apollo-Ridge knocked off undefeated Bethlehem-Center last week for its first playoff win since 2007 and only the second in school history. Now the Vikings are eyeing their first-ever trip to the WPIAL semifinals, and they aren’t intimidated by Sto-Rox’s perfect record or Williams’ staggering totals.
“They believe it,” Skiba said. “We’ve preached it enough. It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere. A lot of people are going to travel to this game. I don’t know how they couldn’t be excited.
“Last Friday was our second playoff win in school history. We’re starting to build something.”