Miserable weather was just one factor in an overall difficult night for the Penns Valley Rams as they fell 59-7 to the Richland Rams in their District 6 AA semifinal matchup.
“I’m proud of the season we had,” said Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias following the season-ending loss. “We played a good football team and there is no shame in that. When you get to this point everybody is good and there is no shame or any reason for our kids to hang their heads.”
Using a reverse on the opening kickoff, Penns Valley was able to create a big return to open the game and set their offense up in Richland territory. A few plays later, Penns Valley was knocking on the door at the Richland one-yard line and looked to be going in for the opening score before disaster struck.
A fumbled handoff put the ball on the turf where Richland recovered to take possession. Avoiding any damage but still stuck on their own two-yard line, the Richland offense went to work on what was only the beginning of a big night.
Needing only eight plays, the Richland offense covered all 98 yards in front of them in a very efficient manner. Running back Zack Vogelsberger broke a big run into Penns Valley territory and eventually capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to put the home side up 7-0 early.
Things did not get any better for Penns Valley as the first half rolled along. A fumble on the ensuing possession was once again recovered by Richland and just three plays later they made it 14-0 on a 17-yard connection between quarterback Joe Hauser and wide out Griffin Larue.
A quick three-and-out from the Penns Valley offense resulted in a punt and Richland went back to work and made it three-for-three on touchdown drives to start the game. On a 2nd-and-24 play, Hauser hit Trevor Tustin in the flat and Tustin did the rest of the work, sprinting untouched into the end zone for a 54-yard throw and catch to push Richland in front 21-0.
“We made some mistakes and some of that is inexperience,” said Tobias. “We haven’t been here before with this group of kids and they need to get a taste of it and build off of that.”
Backs against the wall, the Penns Valley defense stepped up to force consecutive interceptions from the Richland offense. The second interception pinned Penns Valley inside its own five, but quarterback Aaron Tobias was up to the task and pulled his team back into the game.
Dropping back into his own end zone, Tobias dropped a perfect pass into the waiting arms of Ryan Ripka who sprinted the rest of the way to the end zone for a 97-yard touchdown pass to bring the score within 21-7.
“That was a case where Richland was bringing the pressure on third-and-long and it was a play we have had success with, and we just happened to hit it big,” said Tobias
Any hope of a comeback for Penns Valley was fleeting, however, as the Richland offense put two more scores on the board before the halftime break. Vogelsberger punched in his second touchdown of the game with a 2-yard run to push Richland in front 27-7. Another Penns Valley fumble off a strip sack was recovered by the Rams and turned into a score two plays later when Hauser found Koby Bailey from 23 yards away. This touchdown was Hauser’s third of the first half and put Richland up big at halftime, 33-7.
After winning the coin toss and deferring, Richland received the second half kickoff and their offense continued its onslaught out of the halftime break. Off a toss play to the left, Trevor Tustin found the end zone for the second time, once again untouched. The 15-yard score pushed the Richland lead to 41-7 early in the third quarter. After forcing a punt on the first Penns Valley possession of the second half, Richland instituted a running clock for the rest of the contest off a 27-yard boot from kicker Tim Bodenschatz to make it 44-7.
Even with the clock in almost constant motion, the Richland offense showed no signs of slowing down. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Hauser tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the game, once again finding Tustin wide open and untouched for his third score of the contest. The 44-yard pitch-and-catch extended the lead to 51-7 in favor of the home side.
With Hauser now out of the game after throwing four touchdowns, freshman Kellan Stahl took over and joined the touchdown parade with one of his own. Calling his own number, Stahl broke through the center of the line and pulled away from any would be defenders on his way to a 63-yard touchdown that set the final at 59-7 in favor of the host Rams.