10th-seeded Beaver Falls continues surprise run with Class 2A semifinal win over Washington

Friday, November 17, 2023 | 11:05 PM

Beaver Falls might have a double-digit seed, but the Tigers are playing once again for the WPIAL’s top prize after pulling off another upset – this time over No. 3 Washington.

No. 10 Tigers (8-5) regained the lead late in the third quarter and held on for a 28-26 victory over the Little Prexies (11-2) in the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals at Dormont Stadium on Friday night.

“I can’t explain it, man. I can’t explain it,” Beaver Falls coach Nick Nardone said. “I’m so proud. This team deserves it.

“This journey started in the summer. This team has been through so much, but they’ve overcome everything. They deserve this. They deserve to play in this game.

Beaver Falls will face No. 1 Steel Valley (10-1) in the WPIAL Class 2A championship game at Acrisure Stadium at 2 p.m. next Friday.

Last year, the Tigers fell to Steel Valley in the championship game, 34-14.

With the game tied at 14-14 at halftime, the Beaver Falls defense forced Washington to punt. A bad snap forced the Little Prexies to jump on the ball at their own 2-yard line. One play later, senior Da’talian Beauford took the direct snap and ran it in from the 2-yard line to give the Tigers the early lead in the second half.

On the ensuing Washington drive, the Tigers recovered a fumble and took over deep in Little Prexies territory. However, a few plays later, the Washington defense sniffed out the Tiger screen play when sophomore lineman Jayden Nemeth picked off senior quarterback Kadin Brickner and returned the interception for a 70-yard touchdown to tie the game with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter.

Later in the third quarter, senior Da’Sean Anderson picked off Washington’s Tristan Reed to halt a Little Prexies drive. With their heels on their own goal line, the Tigers had a bad snap on their first play of the drive, and senior Zxavian Willis recovered the fumble in the end zone to give Washington its first lead, 26-20, with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter.

On their next drive after the fumble, the Tigers were forced to punt. However, Washington fumbled the punt return. Beaver Falls found new life when it took over at the 4-yard line, and on the first play after the fumble, Beauford ran it in to tie with 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Beauford converted the two-point conversion as well.

“You want to give a definition of never quit? Talk about the 2023 Beaver Falls Tigers because of everything that went wrong tonight,” Nardone said. “They could’ve quit and turned on each other. They never quit. They kept fighting.”

Beauford finished with 106 yards and two touchdown runs on 15 carries.

“I told the kids that no one thought that we would be 11-2 in the semifinals and in a battle until the very end,” Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. “I’m proud of the kids and the team. We had a great year, but it’s hard to lose this way tonight.”

Beaver Falls set the tone early when it marched right down the field on a seven-play drive that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by senior running back Brixx Rawl.

After a short punt by Washington, the Tigers took over at the Little Prexies’ 30-yard line and it only took four plays for Beaver Falls to take advantage of the short field. Anderson scored on the jet sweep for a 14-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers an early 14-0 lead with 4:34 remaining in the first quarter.

On Washington’s second drive, the Little Prexies started to get their run game going. However, the Tigers capitalized on a Reed pass that was floated out toward a Washington receiver. Junior Za’Saun McElvy picked it off and ran it down to the Little Prexies’ 41-yard line.

With the short field again, it looked like Washington was going to go down three scores. However, senior Elijah Thomas picked off Brickner and Thomas returned it for a 100-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game, 14-6, with 7:26 remaining in the second quarter.

After forcing the Tigers to punt, Washington quickly tied the game on two plays when Reed connected with Willis on a receiver screen and Willis took it 50 yards for a touchdown.

“Our kids fought hard and we fought until the very end,” Bosnic said. “We just made too many mistakes. We struggled offensively to be consistent tonight. We had trouble at times with the snaps.”

The Tigers had a chance to retake the lead just before the half, but Rawl fumbled after giving extra effort near the goal line.

This will mark Beaver Falls’ fourth trip in a row to the WPIAL championship game.

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