5 things we learned in Week 5: Rodney Gallagher makes history again

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Saturday, October 1, 2022 | 9:45 PM


Laurel Highlands’ Rodney Gallagher was 0-3 against conference foe Thomas Jefferson, and his Mustangs were outscored 160-3 in the first three years of his high school football career.

This series was as one-sided as could be.

Laurel Highlands was 0-28 all-time against the WPIAL powerhouse, but that winless record changed Friday night, thanks in part to Gallagher, who added another milestone win to his Mustangs legacy.

The West Virginia recruit passed for 215 yards and threw two touchdowns as Laurel Highlands celebrated its first win over Thomas Jefferson, 31-24.

“It meant a lot to me, to my school, my coaches, my teammates and all of that, even my family,” Gallagher said. “It was big time.”

One school that could relate is Shaler, which celebrated its first win in team history over Woodland Hills this week. Shaler was 0-11 all-time against the Wolverines, yet walked into the Wolvarena on Friday and won 28-21.

The last time Shaler met Woodland Hills, in 2015, Shaler lost 59-21.

Gallagher said it takes confidence. Despite decades of history saying otherwise, he and his Laurel Highlands teammates were convinced they could compete with Thomas Jefferson.

“We knew we had a good football team,” Gallagher said. “We’d put in a lot of tremendous work. We knew we were going to have a lot of doubters because we’ve been losing to the big teams in recent years.”

He has silenced those doubters before.

As a freshman, Gallagher led the basketball team to its first WPIAL title since 1968. As a junior, he quarterbacked the football team to the first playoff win in school history.

Not by the book

Not many high school coaches have written a book about offense, but Burrell’s Shawn Liotta has. The book is titled “No Huddle, No Mercy” and teaches teams how to install his up-tempo, pass-oriented style of offense.

Yet, Burrell running back Devin Beattie ran for 298 yards and tied a school record with six touchdowns in a 41-30 win over Imani Christian. The Bucs offense this year is less “air raid” and more “ground and pound.”

Burrell has attempted only five passes all season but improved its record to 5-1.

“We’re running with a different style of offense that fits our kids,” Liotta said. “I tell people, if they wanted to see us throw, they should have come two years ago when we threw it 60 times a game. Now we run it 60 times.”

Clairton set PIAA scoring records when Liotta was offensive coordinator in 2014. At Burrell, his quarterback passed for more than 2,400 yards in 2019.

Winning streak snapped

For the third consecutive week, one of the WPIAL’s longest conference winning streaks ended.

In Week 3, it was North Catholic’s 25-game streak. In Week 4, Penn-Trafford’s streak ended at 21. This time, it was Clairton.The Bears had won 21 consecutive conference games before Friday night’s 34-18 loss at Greensburg Central Catholic. The conference loss was Clairton’s first since Oct. 26, 2018, when the Bears lost to Jeannette, 21-6, in the regular-season finale.

The WPIAL’s longest active conference streak belongs to Central Valley at 24 wins. Next is Elizabeth Forward with 15 in a row.

Who’s in? Who’s out?

Here’s the playoff situation for Class 6A: Nobody’s in, and nobody’s out.

Had Canon-McMillan won Friday, the Big Macs and North Allegheny would have clinched playoff spots. Instead, Central Catholic rallied to beat Canon-Mac, 31-20, leaving the playoff race wide open.

North Allegheny (2-0) leads the conference, followed by Seneca Valley (1-1), Mt. Lebanon (1-1), Central Catholic (1-2) and Canon-McMillan (1-2). Four teams will make the playoffs.

Passing the test

It’s rare that a WPIAL passer tops 400 yards, but Montour’s Jake Wolfe maybe had one of the more unexpected 400-yard games in recent years.

It’s no knock on the junior’s talent. Wolfe shined Friday when he completed 16 of 19 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-0 win over New Castle. What made it surprising was Wolfe more than doubled his season total.

He entered with 345 yards in four games.

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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