H.S. FOOTBALL: Dynamic duo leads Ligonier past United
ARMAGH — Alec Bloom looked like a man among boys, and he played like it, too.
Collin Smith was a boy among men, but he sure didn’t play like it.
Bloom, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound senior tight senior end, caught eight passes for 136 yards in the first half, and Smith, a freshman making his first varsity start, rushed for 107 yards in Ligonier Valley’s 42-7 victory over United in a Heritage Conference football game at Thomas J. Madill Field on Friday night.
Smith didn’t make it into the end zone, but he topped 100 yards on only 10 carries, breaking off 40- and 35-yard runs, the second after he checked in as the backup quarterback. He moved into a starting slot at running back after Michael Kellar went down with a broken leg.
“He’s a freshman, and we’re real excited about what he has in terms of ability,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “We’re slowly phasing him along and giving him a little bit more each week. He’s a QB by trade, but we’re going to use him to the best of his ability because he’s a very good athlete. One thing that’s very important to know is that speed kills. If you have the speed, you use it, and that’s obvious when you see a kid like that flying around and making plays.”
Bloom is much more established in his role. Late in the summer he verbally committed to play football at UConn. He finished with nine receptions for 138 yards, and he was unstoppable in the first half when quarterback Scott Fennell targeted him on 10 of his 14 attempts, including a 32-yard strike for a touchdown on a post pattern.
The two almost hooked up for a touchdown earlier, but Bloom couldn’t quite hang onto a pass while he was trying to tip-toe on the sideline in the corner of the end zone.
“The first half he put on quite a show,” Beitel said. “I think everyone had the opportunity to see why he’s a Division I athlete, and if anybody doubts that or disagrees with that, all they have to do is watch the film of the first half of this game.”
The Rams, though, put on more than a two-man show. Derek Croyle scored the first two touchdowns on short inside runs, and Fennell used his legs to score on 2- and 14-yard runs. Alex Marsh closed the scoring on a 3-yard run that he set up with a 25-yard burst in the fourth quarter. Fennell and Garrett Tobias also helped spur the defense with interceptions.
“We got a lot of kids to chip in,” Beitel said. “Dereck chipped in, Dan chipped in, Collin chipped in, and Scott ran the ball. It was a pretty nice diversified attack. The thing that clouds it for me is just how sloppy we were with the penalties. … We need to get that cleaned up.”
Ligonier Valley committed 11 penalties for 105 yards. Four came on one possession late in the second half when the Rams were on defense, and they led to United’s only touchdown.
United ran only 13 plays on its first five possessions of the first half, four ending in three-and-outs and another on a first-down fumble.
It looked another three-and-out was coming late in the half, but when a punt snap sailed over the head of United’s Seth McClendon, he raced back toward the goal line to gather in the ball and somehow got off a kick. He was roughed on the play, resulting in a first down.
Three more Ligonier Valley penalties resulted in first downs, including one on the last timed play of the half that allowed the Lions to get off one untimed play because a half cannot end on a defensive penalty. United took advantage, with quarterback Weylon McGeary lofting a pass near the front corner of the end zone that Tayler Sheriff hauled in at the 2 and then stepped over the goal line. It was United’s first touchdown of the season.
“In certain areas I saw improvement,” first-year United coach Lance Holupka said, “and in certain areas we kind of took a step back. There are still some turnovers that hurt us. The first half we didn’t really do a whole lot until that last drive. We were just on defense way too long.
“We got the untimed down, and that helped us. We got on the board, and for a team that didn’t score a whole lot of points last year, you get any kind of offensive points and a little momentum, that really helps. The second half we moved the ball a little better, and there were some things in the run game, and we threw the ball a little better. The results aren’t good, but the effort is there, and as long as they keep giving us the effort I’m not going to complain too much about anything we’re doing.”
Ligonier Valley held United to 92 yards, including 27 in the first half, and gained 399. Fennell was 12-for-22 for 177 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, and the Rams rushed for 222 yards on 33 plays, an average of 6.7 yards per attempt. They did suffer a setback when junior tackle Alan Stouffer suffered a broken leg midway through the fourth quarter and left the field in an ambulance.
“We’re young,” Beitel said, “and losing our starting offensive tackle makes us even younger. That’s going to really set us back.”