By JON HALL
For the Star Beacon
While the Northeastern Athletic Conference might be small in stature with just five teams for football, but the league title once again lays in the hands of the defending champions — the Ledgemont Redskins.
Ledgemont put to rest any hopes that Pymatuning Valley may have had of staying in the hunt as they snuck past the Lakers 19-13 at R. W. Sidley Field.
Ledgemont’s chance to win it outright could come in their season ending battle at Grand Valley on October 26. The Redskins (4-4, 3-0) and Grand Valley are the only two undefeated teams in league play remaining as GV is still perfect, too (5-3, 2-0) after their win against Southington on Friday night (14-6) and still has one more league game remaining (Mathews) before the finale versus Ledgemont.
PV (2-6, 1-2) nearly pulled off a miracle in the last 34 seconds. Trailing 19-6 at intermission, PV had numerous opportunities in the second half but they fumbled twice inside the Redskins 10 and had two balls intercepted.
The Lakers finally broke through and marched 60 yards with 1:24 left in the game as they finally scored on first-and-goal at the Redskins 7. Tim Cross who had all 11 catches from quarterback Quintin Ratliff on the night for 125 yards hauled in a 7-yard touchdown. Austin Nowakowski booted the PAT to cut the deficit to 19-13.
Ledgemont only had to run out the clock after PV’s onside kick went out-of-bounds. Instead of taking a knee to ice the game, quarterback Kyle Degener tried to forge ahead and coughed up the ball near midfield. The Lakers were unable to advance from the Ledgemont 43 on 4th down with :01 left as Ratliff was harassed and threw an incomplete pass.
“We totally fought the whole game and didn’t come out in the first half like we should have,” said PV head coach Neal Croston. “The second half we fought as hard as I have seen us since I have been here. The turnovers crushed us but, we still had a chance. When we lose it is usually because of turnovers. It wasn’t just one guy it was a team.
“We started to move the ball (in the second half) but turnovers again did it. We could have lay down in the first half and quit and it could have been ugly. We were getting outmatched. I am proud of the way we battled.”
After PV punted on their first series of the game, Ledgemont wasted no time as Jarrett Young (team-high 101 yards rushing on 24 carries) scored on their second play from scrimmage as Young bolted 28 yards to the end zone with 10:04 for a 6-0 lead.
However, the Lakers’ Ratliff intercepted a pass and raced 59 to pay dirt with 2:06 to go in the first quarter as the PAT missed. Both teams had four passes intercepted on the night but they proved costly to PV in the second half.
Ledgemont took advantage of a PV fumble with 10:24 remaining in the second and capitalized, going five plays, 40 yards with Mike McKeon scoring on a 1-yard plunge with Kingston Ross booting the PAT for a 13-6 advantage.
Ledgemont then took advantage of a bad snap on a punt that PV lost 14 yards on and in just four plays from the 14 with 7:30 to go before halftime McKeon scored his second TD on a 3 yard run. The Redskins went for two but were denied.
Ledgemont outgained PV 231 to 159 and the game saw Ledgemont run 66 plays to 56 for PV. Numerous flags were thrown (19) that had both teams shaking their heads. PV lost three fumbles while Ledgemont had two. The Redskins defense held PV to negative yards in the first half (-9).
“We’ve got Grand Valley next and we are at their place. We’ve got to play football,” Ledgemont mentor Joe LaRosa. “Our defense stood up very well. Our defense is getting tough (as the season has progressed).”
Hall is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.
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