KENWOOD — Sometimes numbers can lie. Take, for instance, Ligonier Valley’s offensive statistics.
The Rams scored fewer points and gained fewer yards Friday than they did in their season opener a week earlier, and they even punted for the first time this season, yet coach Roger Beitel will tell you his team played a better game this week.
Senior running back Kyrie Miller rushed for 225 yards and four touchdowns, and the Rams accumulated 478 total yards behind their dominant offensive live en route to a 47-7 win over Penns Manor in a Heritage Conference football game Friday night. They extended their record conference winning streak to 30 consecutive games.
“For us, to get on the road for the first time this year, I really wasn’t sure what to expect,” Beitel said. “You’ve got to adapt and adjust, and this week, we saw some things (on tape) that said with what we wanted to do offensively, it was going to be more of a run game. Try to overload one side with some power and put three or four linemen on one side and overload the box and then, let Kyrie run. And he did all the rest. The offensive line did a really nice job tonight.”
It was the improvement Beitel hoped to see, even after last week’s season-opening 67-0 win over Homer-Center, in which Ligonier Valley amassed 596 yards. The Rams fell well short of those numbers against the Comets, but that’s not to say the season-opening performance was better.
“The things that we needed to work on from last week,” Beitel said, “were our offensive line getting a good push. Our offensive line did a good job last week, but they just didn’t come off as violently as we wanted them to. And then our kick coverage was an area that we needed to improve, and our kick coverage tonight was fantastic. We had several touchbacks and kept them deep inside their own end with the kickoffs.
“So, in terms of improvement, those were the things that we wanted to see improved, and we improved on, so at this point I’m happy as a coach until I watch the film, and come Monday morning, I won’t be happy, but that’s the life of a coach.”
Ligonier Valley scored on all four of its first-half possessions to take a 28-0 halftime lead, and the Rams tacked on two long touchdowns in the third quarter to enact the mercy rule and the running clock.
“We have a great offense,” said Miller, who has rushed for 419 yards in the first two games. “We have a lot of weapons, and every game we see what they’re going to give us. So we use our receivers, we use our run game, we use our line. We use whatever is going to be to our advantage, and then we just go from there, and that’s what we game plan for.”
Ligonier Valley led 47-0 in the fourth before Penns Manor freshman Mark Bagley scored his first varsity touchdown on a 47-yard run with 4:45 left in the game to get the Comets on the board and snap Ligonier Valley’s shutout streak at 91 minutes, 15 seconds to start the season.
“We knew we were in for a long night with a front four like they have,” Penns Manor coach Bill Packer said. “I don’t think you’re going to see another team like that around in the conference for a long time, especially a front four like that. So we knew we were going to have our hands full, and I thought we came out and played well at times, but then again, I’m very disappointed in our tackling.”
Miller capped Ligonier Valley’s first three possessions of the game with touchdown runs of 5, 34 and 9 yards. Quarterback Sam Sheeder accounted for the Rams’ other first-half touchdown, a 3-yard keeper in the final minute of the half.
“That kid runs so hard, he sees someone in front of him, it’s like he’s tackling you,” Packer said of Miller. “He comes and he tries to run you over. And our kids were hitting too high, and we’re really going to work this week on it. Even though he’s a hard runner, you still have to hit low and put him down.”
In the second half, the Rams punted on their first possession and fumbled on their second. And then, the fireworks followed.
Ligonier Valley scored touchdowns on its next three offensive plays, each of them 47 yards or longer.
Sheeder connected with tight end Cage Dowden across the middle for a 77-yard catch-and-run, Miller scored his fourth and final touchdown on a 47-yard run, and Nick Beitel capped the Rams’ scoring with a 52-yard romp down the left sideline in the fourth.
“(Sheeder) called that play,” Roger Beitel said of the first touchdown in the sequence. “He was like this is what I’m seeing and hit Cage Dowden, our tight end, across the field. We were laughing at him. I didn’t think he could run that far that fast. He got some help by Johnny Beard. He came flying down the field and scraped some paint to get in front of that guy, and that was just a great effort play.”
Dimitri Lieb finished with a team-leading 73 rushing yards for Penns Manor, and he and Bagley accounted for 125 of the Comets’ 171 total yards. Save for a handful of stretch plays to the outside, the Comets had no answer for Ligonier’s defensive front.
“They’re just so fast,” Packer said. “I haven’t seen a 4-front that was so fast, that could get in the backfield with that kind of size. It was hard to get out there. Once you get out there, I thought our guys did a pretty nice job, but again, their defensive backs came up well, too, and they’re fast, so you’ve got to give Ligonier a lot of credit — a very good football team.”