5 things we learned in Week 9: Cornell earns 1st home playoff game since 1983

Saturday, October 26, 2019 | 8:22 PM

Many at Cornell couldn’t remember the football team ever hosting a playoff game, coach Ed Dawson said, but that’s understandable after more than three decades.

Those memories are fuzzy because it happened just once — 36 years ago.

It became a hot topic after Cornell clincheda first-round home game in this year’s WPIAL playoffs with a win Friday over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The Raiders finished second in the Big Seven and hold tiebreakers over the second-place teams from the Eastern and Tri-County South conferences.

But will Cornell play at home? Dawson has a meeting scheduled Monday with school administrators to answer that question.

“Our field isn’t the greatest,” Dawson said, “but the kids earned a home game. You want to afford them that.”

In years past, some teams with grass have moved playoff games to artificial turf if they believe their field isn’t playable or if there is rain in the forecast.

“We don’t have an ideal field, but our kids like it,” Dawson said. “They call it the swamp.”

Cornell folded its football team in 2011, citing a lack of players, but the program was revived in 2016. The rebooted Raiders went 1-17 combined in their first two seasons before finishing 4-5 last year.

This year, they’re 8-1.

“It’s been exciting just seeing it through,” Dawson said. “I tell the kids who stayed — that didn’t quit or transfer — that this is a testament to their character. As a coach, you want to teach kids lessons and see them learn. It’s been awesome to watch.”

Cornell’s only home playoff game was a 12-0 loss to Riverview in 1983.

2. Tough 1st-round draw

The WPIAL football committee has a decision to make in Class A.

Who will draw Jeannette in the first round? The Jayhawks (9-1) seemed headed for the top seed overall in the eight-team bracket.

But Friday night’s 26-7 loss to Clairton cost Jeannette that and also a first-round home game.

That means the Jayhawks can’t be seeded higher than fifth and must be matched with Clairton (8-2), West Greene (9-1), Sto-Rox (9-1) or Cornell (8-1) — the four teams that open the playoffs at home.

The pairings meeting is Monday night.

3. Making history in Aliquippa

The home crowd that packed Aliquippa’s Aschman Stadium on Friday night saw something highly unusual: a loss.

Counting regular season and playoffs, the Quips had won 56 of their previous 57 games at the historic stadium that affectionately is called The Pit. In 2016, Beaver came to town and upset Aliquippa, 28-14.

Before that, the Quips hadn’t lost at home since 2008 to Beaver Falls.

But it was Central Valley that looked most at home at Aschman Stadium on Friday. The Warriors scored the first 31 points and defeated Aliquippa, 45-6, to win the Tri-County West Conference title.

4. Chemistry class

Pine-Richland teammates Cole Spencer and Eli Jochem connected 11 times, including three touchdowns, Friday night as both quarterback and wide receiver set career highs. But they weren’t the only tandem that starred in Week 9.

South Fayette’s Naman Alemada and Charley Rossi combined on 14 receptions on a night that saw some remarkable passing totals. Bentworth’s Shawn Dziak passed for 418 yards, and Burrell’s Alex Arledge had 348.

Spencer finished with 396 yards passing. That type of chemistry doesn’t develop overnight, he said.

“It’s funny,” Spencer said. “All last year, I didn’t play defense, and Eli didn’t play defense. So during defensive practice, we’d go down to the other side of the field and just throw and throw and throw and throw.”

The two combined for 220 yards in Friday night’s 42-14 victory over North Allegheny, including a 79-yard touchdown on the second play of the game.

“Now he’s playing a little defense, so we don’t get to do that as much,” Spencer said. “But definitely last year has helped a ton and it’s definitely showing now.”

5. New touchdown record

Move over Zane Dudek. There’s a new regular-season touchdown record-holder in the WPIAL. The former Armstrong star’s record of 42 stood for only three years before West Greene senior Ben Jackson broke it Friday night.

Jackson scored seven times in a 59-26 victory at Union, giving the 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back 47 touchdowns this season.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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