NEW PARIS - Early in the first quarter of Friday night's matchup between Bald Eagle Area and Chestnut Ridge, Eagles quarterback Jason Jones twice found wide receiver Bryan Greene behind the Lions' secondary.
The first time, the pair hooked up for a 52-yard reception that led to a Bald Eagle field goal. The second time, Jones outraced everyone on his way to a 67-yard touchdown, giving his team a 10-7 lead with 4 minutes remaining in the first.
But Ridge, a year removed from a District 5 Class AA title, pushed past the Eagles' early success through the air. Following Jones' touchdown reception, the Lions held their opponents to just 95 more yards in the contest and didn't allow another pass completion until less than 5 minutes remained in the game.
With its defense rolling, the Ridge offense took its time and focused on the ground game, rushing for 255 yards, including 176 from fullback Matt Wiley, on its way to a 23-10 homecoming victory.
"Our offense builds off of our defense," Ridge senior quarterback Beau Bosch said. "So when the defense is going, the offense is going, and the rest of the game is going. We need to play that way every week to have success.
"The defense really stepped up. They made some plays, and that's what we needed."
Lions coach Max Shoemaker was happy with how his team responded to Bald Eagle's early passing attack.
"It was a gutty performance; we had some kids who were sick the latter part of the week and even some who got sick tonight," he said. "We gave them two scoring opportunities in the first half. ... I think we really overcame a lot of adversity to win."
The victory brought Ridge to 2-2 on the season. Area opponents already knew about the running ability of Bosch, a 1,000-yard rusher a year ago, but the Lions got a big lift from the play of Wiley. The 6-foot-2 junior averaged more than 9 yards per carry against the Eagles and had two long touchdown runs.
With the score tied at 10-10 in the third quarter, Wiley busted through the Bald Eagle line and outraced everyone for a 59-yard score. It proved to be the score that broke open the game.
"Matt's just learning the position, so he's going to get better with time," Shoemaker said. "On that touchdown run, he cramped up, and he never did get back to where he was [earlier in the game]."
After his long score, Wiley cramped up and he played sparingly the rest of the night.
The loss was the first of the season for the 3-1 Eagles, who game into the contest averaging 47 points per game. Though their first three games came against teams with a combined 2-7 record going into Friday night, Bald Eagle expected more from its team.
"We lost two of our better blockers on the offense early in the first quarter, so that was hard," Eagles coach John Tobias said. "We just didn't execute real well. There were times we were on the wrong people and we just weren't blocking good up front."
Despite the disappointing loss, Tobias reminded his team that they were still 3-1, and needed to prepare for a tough matchup next week against Central.
"I told the guys, 'It's not a four-game season.' We have to come back and work hard and get ready for Central," he said. "The guys just need to put the time in and pay attention to detail."
According to Bosch, getting Ridge's record back to .500 was important in gaining momentum for the season. The team lost to 3-1 Central and 4-0 Berks Catholic in its first three games.
"We started the season off a little rough against two skilled teams, but we bounced back," he said. "That's what's best about this team, that we have the determination and heart to make it through the tough times."
Next week, the Lions visit 1-4 Philipsburg-Osceola.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bald Eagle Area10 0 0 0 - 10
Chestnut Ridge7 3 7 6 - 23
BE-Schall 25 FG, 8:22.
CR-M. Wiley 23 run (Van Meter kick), 5:04.
BE-Bryan Greene 67 pass from J. Jones (Schall kick), 4:00.
CR-Van Meter 41 FG, 8:36.
CR-M. Wiley 59 run (Van Meter kick), 4:16.
CR-Bosch 1 run (kick blocked), 4:52.
RUSHING: Bald Eagle Area-J. Jones 8-(-2), Bartley 8-26, Bryan Greene 6-20, Weaver 2-10, Cleaver 1-5. Chestnut Ridge-Bosch 26-68, M. Wiley 19-176, Crouse 1-3, T. Wiley 6-9, TEAM 1-(-1).
PASSING: Bald Eagle Area-J. Jones 6-15-1-155. Chestnut Ridge-Bosch 3-8-0-38.
RECEIVING: Bald Eagle Area-Bryan Greene 2-119, Bryce Greene 2-35, Bartley 2-1. Chestnut Ridge-Weyant 2-25, Osman 1-13.
INTERCEPTIONS: Bald Eagle Area-None. Chestnut Ridge-Crouse.