Apollo-Ridge puts scare into Charleroi before losing by 10
Charleroi got an unexpected challenge from Apollo-Ridge on Friday night before pulling out a 34-24 victory.
It appeared to be a classic mismatch for the Cougars, who improved to 8-1. They have been dominant, losing only two regular-season games over the past two years. The Vikings came into Myron Pottios Stadium as losers of six straight, giving up 273 points during the skid.
Apollo-Ridge held a 17-7 advantage at the half, but Charleroi took the lead for good with 9 minutes, 18 seconds left in the game on a 2-yard run by Geno Pellegrini.
Ethan Codeluppi sealed the victory with a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown a little over three minutes later.
“Any time you can overcome adversity and you get an opportunity and you capitalize on it, I think it is a good thing,” Charleroi coach Lance Getsy said. “For these guys to be able to face that is a good thing, but you never want to be in that position. With senior night and all the emotions, we were a little bit worried.”
Apollo-Ridge turned in a 10-play scoring drive on the game’s opening possession. Klay Fitzroy hauled in a 10-yard pass from Jake Fello to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead.
“Give them credit. They came out and they wanted to win,” Getsy said. “They fought, and they gave us a heck of a game. We got into halftime and calmed the kids down and just figured out what adjustments we could make. We made those adjustments, and it turned out pretty good.”
Charleroi answered as Pellegrini hit Dakota Romantino on a 6-yard pass to tie the score 7-7.
The Cougars defense held on the next Apollo-Ridge drive, but Pellegrini fumbled on third-and-long, and the Vikings’ Jacob Clark recovered.
The Charleroi defense held Vikings to a Gavin Cole 20-yard field goal, but Apollo-Ridge struck again after blocking a Charleroi punt.
Harmon went in from 2 yards to stretch the lead to 17-7 in front of a stunned crowd.
Charleroi had a scoring chance late in the half. Hunter Perry took a short pass and reversed his field for a 66-yard gain to the Apollo-Ridge 14-yard line.
Perry had a chance to score three plays later, but the ball slipped through his hands in the end zone. The Cougars turned the ball over on downs and went into the locker room down 10 points.
Dakota Romantino started the second half by returning the kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown to trim the lead to three points.
“It definitely got us all fired up,” Romantino said. “The next defensive drive, we stopped them. It just got everyone hyped up.”
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Pellegrini found Romantino in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown on fourth-and-12, and the Cougars had their first lead at 21-17.
Apollo-Ridge responded as Fello found Fitzroy on the sideline. He slipped a tackle and scampered 58 yards to the Charleroi 6. Harmon ran it in from there, and the Vikings were back on top 24-21.
For this senior class, it has been a wild ride. As freshmen, the team was winless. Now, they are Interstate Conference champs.
“It’s amazing. Me and my senior class turned this program around,” said Pellegrini, who topped 6,000 yards for his career. “We got people thinking and knowing Charleroi is a good team. They want to come out to the games. We changed the culture.”
“It means the whole world to all of us,” said Romantino who has more than 2,300 yards receiving and 31 career touchdowns. “We’ve been together since we were 6 years old. We were always the underdogs every year. It just feels so good to be on top.”
Now Charleroi heads to the playoffs for the second straight season.
“You prepare like you do any time,” said Getsy. “We need to make sure we practice hard. Maybe a game like this helps us.”