ALTOONA, Pa. — The Pine-Richland Rams (12-3) are championship-bound once again thanks to a dominating win over Cocalico 34-12.
The Rams’ usual game plan is to run the ball, dominate the trenches, and play stout defense which they did versus Cocalico. The only difference from the normal game plan was that the Rams added an unusual air-raid portion to that game plan.
Quarterback Ryan Palmieri completed 9 of 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 73 yards and a touchdown. Palmieri found Bradford Gelly on the second play of the game for a 61-yard touchdown and later threw him a 56-yard touchdown. Palmieri also hooked up with Andrew Mellis for a perfectly thrown back-shoulder 17-yard touchdown.
To add perspective, Palmieri only had 782 yards of passing all season. This is because the Rams tend to dominate the run game where Palmieri totaled 1,734 yards and 22 touchdowns coming into this game. Not to mention running back Ethan Pillar’s 1,151 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns coming in.
“We don’t really pass the ball a lot so this is a big game for [the wide receivers] because they worked hard all year. They are out there blocking for us while we are running and it just feels good to finally get them some balls and touchdowns,” Palmieri said about the offensive performance to Pittsburgh Sports Now after the game.
Four weeks into the 2022 season, Pine-Richland sat at 1-3 and nobody saw them making the WPIAL playoffs let alone becoming the champions in Class-5A. The Rams turned their season around when head coach Jon LeDonne decided to flip the script and make last year’s quarterback Ryan Palmieri the starter once again. Now with just one game separating them from being state champions, the Rams are rolling with confidence.
Since the switch, the Rams are winners of 11 straight games.
“The coaching situation that we’ve had the last couple of years has been a little rough. Last year we kinda lacked a leader but this year [Coach LeDonne] and the whole staff have done wonders for this group. They created a great culture, and set us up to make big plays,” Palmieri said about the Rams’ coaching staff. “They know what they are doing and we just listen to them and try to go out there and execute.”
The WPIAL Class-5A champions look to win their third PIAA state championship next week when they face off against Imhotep Charter at Cumberland Valley High School.
Palmieri is already a PIAA state champion as Pine-Richland won the Class-5A title in 2020. “This definitely means a ton more now. I was a sophomore then, I really was not playing. This is my senior year it really means a lot to me,” Palmieri said about this year’s championship game. “They are really good so we are going to have a tough week of practice, gotta stay locked in.”
“It’s gonna be a battle for sure.”