H.S. FOOTBALL: Fennell, Rams torch Saltsburg
SALTSBURG — Ligonier Valley quarterback Scott Fennell embraced the idea of a pass-heavy game plan against Saltsburg, a fruitful decision that helped the senior play arguably the most productive game of his career.
Fennell figured in on four first-half touchdowns and threw for a season high 294 yards to propel the unbeaten Rams to a 50-14 win over Saltsburg in a Heritage Conference football game Friday.
The Rams ran their record to 6-0 and extended their winning streak to eight games over Saltsburg.
“All he wants to do is win,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said of Fennell, who completed 14 of 20 passes. “Whether he’s got to run the football, throw the football or just hand it off, he wants to win.
“And that’s something that came through his experience, especially this summer at the Manning Passing Academy. Those are his heroes, and if you look at what those guys do, those Mannings, that’s all they do is find ways to win. He’s really adopting that, and that’s something we’re real proud of.”
Fennell, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior, put the Rams on the board first when he hooked up with Jordan Jones for a 34-yard on their fourth play from scrimmage to make it 7-0 just 1:48 into the game. Fennell scrambled for seconds before setting his feet and lofting a picturesque pass over the left shoulder of Jones, who was running a flag toward the left pylon.
Saltsburg freshman quarterback Frankie Plowman responded on fourth-and-goal at the Rams’ 5 on the Trojans’ next possession. Plowman hit Tyler Frassenei, who was tightly covered by Fennell, for a 5-yard touchdown strike to tie the game at 7 with 8:19 to go in the first quarter.
But on the Rams’ next play from scrimmage, freshman running back Collin Smith took a toss sweep around left end, cut back to the middle of the field and outran Tony Salandra up the right sideline to score a 58-yard touchdown to make it a 14-7 game.
“Collin’s only a freshman and he has a tremendous future in football,” Beitel said. “He’s a quarterback by trade, but we moved him to running back when we lost Michael Keller. He’s still a young buck, but he’s very electrifying. He’s a game-changer, and we’re fazing him in more and more to the offense.”
The Rams drove 59 yards on six plays on their next drive to score another touchdown, stretching the lead to 22-7. This time, Fennell plowed into the end zone from 3 yards to cap the drive with 5:02 left in the first quarter.
But the ever-resilient Trojans refused to quit, striking for a long touchdown on the fifth play of their ensuing drive to momentarily get back in the game. Plowman heaved a pass 20 yards downfield to Tyler Frassenei, who juked a few defenders to get in the open field along the Saltsburg sideline. Frassenei then shifted gears and darted past two defenders, scoring on a 64-yard play to trim Ligonier Valley’s lead to 22-14 with 2:48 to go in the first quarter.
“Frankie is giving us some opportunities to put Tyler in positions to make some plays,” Saltsburg coach Tim Frassenei said. “Tyler made a nice play there, but that was one of Frankie’s better throws. You’ve got to give them both credit there.”
The Rams’ powerful offense didn’t let up, however, and essentially crippled the Trojans by scoring on two of their last three drives of the first half.
First, Fennell capped an 11-play, 74-yard drive in which Ligonier Valley was penalized four times for 45 yards. He scored on an 11-yard run with 7:34 to play in the first half to make it 29-14.
Then, the Rams called timeout with nine seconds left in the half to devise a plan to throw a Hail Mary pass in the direction of 6-foot-7 tight end Alec Bloom. Fennell uncorked a perfectly placed pass that Bloom nabbed in the end zone with four defenders in his area, stretching Ligonier Valley’s lead to 35-14 at halftime.
“On the Hail Mary, it was just go down and throw the ball as hard and as high as you can,” Fennell said. “He just makes plays. Whenever everybody’s covered, that’s when I come back to him.”
Bloom had a game-high 135 receiving yards on five catches, giving him the area lead with 26 on the season.
“Their whole game plan was designed to shut him down, and he still made plays,” Beitel said of Bloom. “And that Hail Mary, he’s probably the only kid you’ve seen that can make that play. We’ve practiced it for over two years and we’ve never got to use it, but that’s as fantastic of a football play as you’ll see in a long time — just fantastic.”
Dereck Croyle scored a 1-yard touchdown with 8:20 left in the third quarter to extend Ligonier Valley’s lead to 43-14.
Daniel Croyle added a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:39 to go in the third quarter to make it 50-14.
Smith, an Ohio native who moved to Ligonier last year, finished with a team-high 61 yards on seven carries.
Steve Richards carried 10 times for a game-high 82 yards for Saltsburg. Plowman finished 8 of 20 for 117 yards and two interceptions.