A-K Valley football notebook: Late-season surge gets Kiski Area in playoffs
Saturday, October 26, 2019 | 10:22 PM
A series of playoff scenarios were on the table in the Class 5A Northern Conference entering Friday’s Week 9 games.
First and foremost on Kiski Area’s mind was a win over rival Armstrong in its regular-season finale.
Secondary was what Mars and Fox Chapel did in their games.
The main mission for the Cavaliers (5-5, 4-3) was successful as they scored a 35-26 victory behind a combined 383 rushing yards from Kenny Blake and Luke Lander.
Kiski Area, which won its final three conference games, locked up third place based on its victory over Mars in Week 8.
“We’re really excited for the playoffs, and I am so proud of the kids for the way they ended (the regular season),” Cavaliers coach Sam Albert said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet. I do think we are starting to peak at the right time.”
Mars defeated Hampton and finished fourth. Shaler, at 3-4, wrapped up fifth place based on its 27-20 win at Fox Chapel on Friday.
The Foxes, despite their loss to the Titans, earned the wild card and are back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus.
Fox Chapel most likely will draw No. 1 Penn-Trafford in the first round, but official word of its playoff fate will be announced Monday at 7 p.m. on the TribLIVE High School Sports Network.
Coach Tom Loughran said after Friday’s game his team will be confident and ready to execute a gameplan.
The Foxes led Shaler 6-0 at halftime, but the Titans outscored them 27-14 in the second half.
Shane Susnak completed 14 of 18 passes for 187 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Going out winners
Freeport coach John Gaillot and his players experienced the height of heartbreak two weeks ago with a 36-35 overtime loss to Big East rival Burrell that knocked them out of contention for a Class 3A playoff spot.
But Friday’s senior-night game against neighboring rival Knoch turned into a celebration.
Senior Ricky Hunter’s 5-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter rallied the Yellowjackets to a 34-31 victory and gave them a winning record on the season at 5-4.
Hunter added TD runs of 9 and 37 yards. Senior Garret Schaffhauser threw for 154 yards and touchdown passes to senior Brodey Woods and freshman Ben Lane, and Woods finished with six catches for 85 yards.
Freeport avenged last season’s 26-7 loss to Knoch.
“It was a great win for the seniors and the whole team,” Gaillot said. “They battled all season through a number of close games and had a few tough losses. But they never gave up, and I am very proud of them.”
Wild rivalry game
The Springdale-Leechburg rivalry is the oldest in the Alle-Kiski Valley, dating back to 1932.
But there probably hasn’t been a matchup quite like Friday’s 50-43 Blue Devils victory.
The play was intense, physical and, at times, chippy. The teams went back and forth before Leechburg salted the game away in the final minute by getting a first down after recovering a Springdale onside kick.
Jake Blumer, who celebrated his final home game with his 12 senior teammates, finished with 160 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He carried the ball 17 times for 124 yards in the second half.
Dylan Cook threw a touchdown to senior Anthony Mangee and added a pair of 1-yard TD runs.
Leechburg scored 36 points off five Springdale turnovers.
The Dynamos mounted a rally after trailing 50-28 with 7:34 left in the fourth. Christian Vokes rushed for 106 yards and three touchdown, and Dmitri Fritch threw for 147 yards and two touchdowns to Logan Dexter, and he added a rushing score.
Knights edged out
Knoch, with its Northwest 8 schedule complete, could only watch Friday as its slim WPIAL playoff hopes were put on the line.
When New Castle defeated Beaver and Blackhawk topped Ambridge, the Knights (6-4, 4-3) were eliminated. Knoch, which lost its final three in conference after a 4-0 start, ends its season losing out on a playoff tiebreaker for the second year in a row.
The Knights, in their 34-31 loss to rival Freeport on Friday, got touchdown runs of 8 and 2 yards from sophomore Keegan Fraser, and senior Scott Fraser hauled in a 10-yard TD from senior Kam Grassi.
Tweet of the Week
From the first practice to the last play of tonight’s game, this football team fought and never gave up. Took some tough opponents to the brink and have a lot to be proud of. Thank you to our seniors and coaches for your leadership! #R4L@HighlandsSD @HHS_Students2 @DomGirardi12
— Highlands_Athletics (@HighlandsAthl) October 26, 2019
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .