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Niles stopped by league foe South Range

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Alleni Fryer of Niles tries to escape South Range tacklers after making a catch Friday night.

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — The South Range Raiders, with a new starting quarterback and a stingy defense, kept their record perfect on the season with a 35-7 victory over the Niles Red Dragons Friday night. The Raiders are now 3-0 on the season while the Dragons drop to 1-2.

Sophomore quarterback Billy Skripac made his first varsity start of the season and completed 9 of 13 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown while also adding 49 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries to keep the Raiders’ offense rolling. Senior Michael Patrone got nicked up last week in the Raiders’ victory over Girard and is expected back. The Raiders now know they have depth at the QB position.

For the Red Dragons it was a night of missed opportunities as they missed a chance to score just before halftime, leaving their deficit at 21-7 at halftime. It could have possibly been a two-score swing as the Dragons received the kickoff to start the second half.

The Raiders’ defense played a key role in the change of momentum. Starting at 4:27 before halftime the Red Dragons marched from their own 10 to the Raiders’ 4 with 5 seconds remaining. As Zack Leonard rolled to his right, Raiders freshman outside linebacker Kamron Aquisto tackled Leonard, causing an errant pass and denying the Dragon from scoring.

“We’ve had that problem a couple of times this year,” Dragon coach Jim Parry remarked. “Against Poland, we had the same scenario, two times, so obviously that has to be a point of emphasis. When we get down in the red zone, we have to score.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Antuan Gardner finds a hole in the South Range defense during the fourth quarter.

The Raiders used a 63-yard drive on 11 plays with Skripac connecting with tight end Jake Gehring on a 24-yard pass with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter to draw first blood in the contest.

The Dragons answered right back with a 27-yard pass from Leonard to Chase Sudzina to knot the game at 7-7 with only 28 ticks left in the opening quarter. The drive was set by a 23-yard pass from Leonard to Alleni Fryer.

But the Raiders scored on two consecutive possessions as Skripac ran in from 8 yards out with 8:15 remaining in the half, followed by a 13-yard run by Dylan Dominguez at the 4:31 mark of the second quarter. That gave the Raiders a 21-7 advantage and set up the key stop of the Dragon before the intermission.

The Dragons had a chance to cut into the Raiders lead on their first possession of the second half as they drove to the Raiders 18-yard line, but the drive stalled there. A Chase Sudzina 35-yard field goal was then blocked by the Raiders Luke Crumbacher, swinging the momentum back to the Raiders.

“We felt if we would have scored there, we would have been right back in it,” Parry said. “Again we didn’t capitalize there.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Zack Leonard passes the ball downfield for the Red Dragons on Friday night against South Range.

The Raiders added two fourth-quarter touchdowns on a 5-yard run by Dominguez with 8:47 remaining in the game to make it 28-7. Then Jake Starkey added a 2-yard scamper with only 5:40 left to make it the final 35-7 score.

“We’re playing as a team right now, and playing pretty good football,” South Range coach Dan Yeagley said. “Fortunately we were able to get a couple of big stops and put the game away. It was a tough game.”

The Red Dragons will try to get back in the winning column next Friday when they host the Struthers Wildcats. The Raiders will try to keep things rolling when they travel to Jefferson next Friday.

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