NEW PARIS - If the Chestnut Ridge High School football team had lost quarterback Beau Bosch to an injury last season, it would have almost signalled a death-knell for the Lions, who needed to outscore every opponent.
That's no longer the case.
Ridge has traded shootouts for near-shutouts, holding its third straight adversary to 10 points or fewer to run its record to 4-2 with a 24-2 victory over visiting St. Joseph's Catholic Academy on Friday night at Dr. Giocacchini Stadium.
"It definitely feels good to hold a team to lower digits or to single digits," said Ridge junior safety Noah Osman, who recorded one of the Lions' three interceptions. "It always feels good to win."
The Lions claimed their third win in a row by limiting St. Joseph's to 153 yards of total offense, 46 of which came on back-to-back runs by mercurial Wolves tailback Kahsim Buey late in the game after the contest already had been decided.
The Lions also came up with five turnovers.
Last season, Ridge ranked in the bottom third of area teams by giving up 25.2 points per game. This year, however, the Lions have held four opponents to 13 points or fewer. In the last three weeks, Bald Eagle Area, Philipsburg-Osceola and St. Joseph's have combined for 19; those three teams average 22.9 points per game.
"I think we've taken some steps in the right direction in terms of our fundamentals," Ridge coach Max Shoemaker said. "Tonight, I thought our tackling against a pretty good kid [Buey] was good. I think our pass coverage has improved. These guys can throw the ball."
Ridge only had five starters back from last year on defense. Osman was the only returnee in the secondary.
"We're working hard, every practice working hard, to improve our skills," Osman said. "Our defensive backs had to work more on our contain. After we got our contain, we started working on our pass coverage and just started having fun with it."
Ridge played without Bosch - the 1,000-yard rusher from 2012 sustained a concussion last week and still is being evaluated. The Lions, though, scored on three of five first-half possessions and had more than enough points to win.
Jake Bowser, starting in place of Bosch, got the Lions on the board with a 4-yard run 6:33 into the contest, capping a 57-yard drive on which fullback Matt Wiley ran for 41 of his game-high 76 yards. Wiley scored himself from 14 yards away in the opening minute of the second quarter.
Braden Hengst's interception put the Lions in business again at their own 48, and Tyler Wiley scored 12 plays later on a run from the 3 with 1:44 left in the half.
"[Not having Bosch] takes a dimension away, but Jake stepped in and did what he had to do. We just wanted a steady performance, and he delivered," Shoemaker said. "The second half, our offense kind of went in the tank, and we weren't as crisp with our blocking."
St. Joseph's only score was a second-quarter safety. The first-year program slipped to 2-4.
"We had a bad first half. If we had brought the mentality of the second half to the first half, executed better, it would have been a much different game, I think," said St. Joseph's coach Dave Carson, whose team committed 10 penalties in addition to its offensive woes.
The win made Ridge eligible for the District 5 Class AA playoffs, but Shoemaker downplayed that.
"We look at each week as trying to improve and get a win while we're improving," Shoemaker said. "We want to win out, and the playoffs takes care of itself."
Game notes: Ridge hosts Kutztown next Friday, while St. Joseph's entertains Kane. ... Ridge place-kicker Sean Van Meter made a 35-yard field goal, his fourth in as many tries this season. ... The Wolves were forced to punt on a third-quarter fourth-and-goal when Shane Davis' sack and three penalties pushed them back to the Ridge 49.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
St. Joseph's0 2 0 0 - 2
Chestnut Ridge7 14 0 3 - 24
CR-Bowser 4 run (Van Meter kick), 5:17.
CR-M. Wiley 14 run (Van Meter kick), 11:18.
SJ-Safety, Bowser tackled in end zone, 7:37.
CR-T. Wiley 3 run (Van Meter kick), 1:44.
CR-Van Meter 35 FG, 11:55.
RUSHING: St. Joseph's-Buey 14-70, Breon 4-6, Jabco 1-7, Young 1-6, Driscoll 2-1, Gregory 1-1, Fenstermacker 7-(-13), TEAM 1-(-21). Chestnut Ridge-M. Wiley 16-76, Lohr 5-26, Bowser 9-23, T. Wiley 7-17, Crouse 2-8, Grubb 3-(-6), TEAM 1-(-1).
PASSING: St. Joseph's-Fenstermacker 12-23-2-96, Driscoll 0-1-1-0. Chestnut Ridge-Bowser 3-7-0-84, Grubb 1-2-0-27.
RECEIVING: St. Joseph's-Buey 6-12, Jabco 2-44, Kresovoch 2-15, Young 1-18, Breon 1-7. Chestnut Ridge-Osman 2-91, Colledge 1-11, Hengst 1-9.
INTERCEPTIONS: St. Joseph's-none. Chestnut Ridge-Hengst, Osman, Zonfrilli.