A-K Valley football notebook: Deer Lakes, Highlands running to success
Deer Lakes and Highlands are on a run thanks to the run.
The schools might be known more for their high-octane passing games, but they’re proving they can move effectively on the ground as well as through the air.
Highlands’ recent two-game winning streak came as a strong rushing attack supplemented its passing game. Cam Taylor rushed for nearly 250 yards and four touchdowns in victories over Beaver and Ambridge, while quarterback Seth Cohen had 126 yards and two scores against Beaver.
For the season, Taylor has a team-high 445 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, while Cohen has 417 yards and four touchdowns to go with his 1,272 passing yards and 14 touchdowns.
Deer Lakes, meanwhile, had its best rushing performance of the season with 165 yards in last week’s 34-21 victory over Burrell. Quarterback Aris Hasley had a team-high 93 yards.
Although Hasley doesn’t consider himself a dual-threat quarterback a la Freeport’s Austin Romanchak, Deer Lakes complemented the read option between Hasley and running back Isiaiah Yoder with jet sweeps from Jared Colton. Hasley and Colton both rushed for touchdowns against Burrell. Wide receiver Ethan Bender had a long rushing touchdown on a jet sweep in the previous week’s win over Mt. Pleasant.
“Isaiah’s starting to run downhill and get a grasp of the offense,” Hasley said of Yoder, a former wide receiver. “And me, too, (I’m) trying to make plays with my feet.”
Defense not resting
After dropping its first three games of the season, Freeport righted its ship with back-to-back victories over Uniontown and Yough.
A signature strong defense was a major factor. The Yellowjackets posted two shutouts last season, and they got their first of the 2018 campaign by blanking Yough, 20-0, last week.
More impressive than the shutout was limiting star Yough running back Dustin Shoaf to 89 yards on 23 carries, becoming the first team this season to hold the WPIAL’s leading rusher under 100. Shoaf had eight straight 100-yard performances and now has 1,305 rushing yards this season.
Freeport made a few defensive switches before the Uniontown game to key the two-game winning streak, inserting Jalen Brown into the lineup at defensive back, moving Ricky Hunter from safety to linebacker and shifting freshman Jewlius Barnes from inside linebacker to defensive line. Barnes had two sacks in the win over Yough.
Apollo-Ridge is experiencing a case of deja vu this season.
Just like last season, injuries and illnesses are wreaking havoc on the Vikings’ roster, necessitating players to shift around to fill vacancies in the lineup. As a result, Apollo-Ridge (2-4, 1-3) has dropped three straight games going into Friday’s Class 2A Allegheny Conference matchup with Valley (1-5, 0-3).
Star sophomore RB/LB Logan Harmon missed two games to injury. Sophomore Jake Fello began the season at quarterback but moved to wide receiver, swapping spots with fellow sophomore Klay Fitzroy.
Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said he had 27 players at practice Wednesday, a higher number than recent weeks, and the Vikings still have a chance at the playoffs if they have a strong final stretch.
“These kids, especially that young group, they come out every day and just keep grinding at it,” Skiba said. “They don’t waver, they just pay attention. They’re trying to get better, and they’re working to get better. They’re listening to coaching. That’s probably been the brightest thing.”
Several Alle-Kiski Valley football players find themselves among the WPIAL’s statistical leaders with four weeks remaining in the regular season.
Kiski Area senior Ryne Wallace leads Class 5A in passing and ranks fourth in the WPIAL with a career-high 1,604 yards in six games, averaging 267.3 per game. He threw for 380 yards against Fox Chapel. Cohen is 10th in the WPIAL in passing with 1,272 yards, and Hasley is 14th with 1,089.
Cohen’s top target, senior Johnny Crise, ranks fifth in receiving yards with 604 on 25 catches, averaging 24.2 per reception. Kiski Area’s Jack Colecchi is seventh with 584 yards, while teammate Troy Kuhn has 487. Plum native Rahmon Hart Jr., a senior at Imani Christian, leads the WPIAL with 801 yards.
Valley senior Deonte Ross leads A-K Valley rushers with close to 750 yards and nine touchdowns, while Burrell senior Luke Kastelic has 701 yards. Both rank just outside the top 10 in the WPIAL.