High School Sports

High school football: Bald Eagle Area travels back to Ligonier Valley

Forgive the Bald Eagle Area football team if tonight’s District 6 Class AA football playoff game has a familiar feel.

Just a week ago, the Eagles took the long bus ride to Ligonier Valley for their regular-season finale and that’s where they’re headed again tonight for a 7 p.m. clash against the Rams.

Seventh-seeded BEA (6-4) hopes the outcome isn’t the same against No. 2 Ligonier Valley (9-1). The Rams rolled to a 48-6 romp in hand the Eagle on of their worst losses of the season.

Ligonier Valley controlled the ball most of the game, behind the running of tailback Ryan Torrance and leadership of quarterback Scott Fennell.

“To get points you have to have the ball,” Eagles’ coach Jack Tobias said with a chuckle. “That’s the big thing. When you only have a few drives it’s tough to get anything going.”

Tobias estimated his team only had about 20 offensive snaps through three quarters last week because of the Rams’ ball control offense. If that performance is repeated, Dakota Bartley, the Eagles’ leading rusher, will have a hard time being effective.

“We need to make sure we get the ball and sustain drives,” Tobias said. “That’s the biggest part of getting him going.”

With senior running back Dion Barnard injured for most of the season, the offensive load has fallen on Bartley. Last week, Bartley rushed 10 times for 66 yards and a score for the Eagles.

“We need to make sure we get the ball and sustain drives,” Tobias said. “That’s the biggest part of getting him going.”

To do that, they’ll have to keep the ball away from Torrance, who was the difference-maker last week. The senior rushed 27 times for 161 yards and a touchdown.

Tobias knows a repeat performance will doom his team’s chances of victory. “He’s a tough, physical runner,” Tobias said of Torrance. “We need to be more physical up front. We didn’t really have a good game up front last week and they were able to control the clock.”

“We gotta make sure we stop the run and (our) guys need to play fast and with good technique up front and last week we struggled with that," Tobias added. "But, we prepared all week for that and we’re ready to face a good rushing attack.”

The combination of Torrance and junior Fennell has scored 33 of the Rams’ 44 rushing touchdowns this season. Last week, they accounted for six of the eight Ligonier Valley touchdowns with Fennell rushing for three and passing for two more.

The Eagles started the season 4-0, but sputtered going 2-4 down the stretch. They were outscored 185-20 in the four losses.

BEA makes its first playoff appearance since 2008, when the Eagles lost 34-0 in the opening round to top-seeded Tyrone.

“The guys have been really excited all week and happy with the opportunity to get in,” Tobias said. “It’s kind of neat to go play the same team two weeks in a row … look at the tape and make some adjustments … and the kids have a real good confidence coming in, so we’re excited for this week.”

No matter what happens though, Tobias hopes his team will have learned a few valuable lessons.

“Just to never give up and just keep playing,” Tobias said. “Obviously the hard work and effort that they put in going into the season has paid off and we have a winning record. And regardless of what happens at the end of the year here, it’s still going to be a winning record.”