A-K Valley football teams fall short in 1st round of WPIAL playoffs

Saturday, November 2, 2019 | 10:27 PM

When sophomore Cody Dykes connected on a 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter of Friday’s WPIAL Class 5A first-round game at Bethel Park, the Kiski Area football team held a 10-point lead.

Seniors running backs Peyton McCann and Luke Lander combined for 106 yards to that point, and the No. 10 Cavaliers were feeling good about where they stood against the host Black Hawks.

But Bethel Park, the No. 7 seed, righted its ship and made plays in all three phases, scoring 28 points before halftime to take control in what would become a 45-16 victory.

“Bethel Park is a quality team, and they have some really good athletes who made plays,” Kiski Area coach Sam Albert said.

Albert praised his team for not folding in the second half as the Black Hawks added to their lead.

Kiski Area freshman Lebryn Smith came on in the second half and completed 5 of 8 passes for 92 yards. He capped the scoring in the waning seconds of the game with a 6-yard touchdown run.

“We had a lot of young players in key roles for us this season,” Albert said. “I am excited to see what they are able to do moving forward into next year.”

McCann finished with 13 carries for 75 yards. He left the game late in the first half with what Albert said was a knee injury. Albert said Saturday morning the extent of the injury is yet to be known pending further examination.

“Without (junior) Kenny (Blake), he was our go-to guy,” Albert said. “He really stepped up and ran hard like he always has. It was tough to see him go down like that.”

Lander added 23 carries for 61 yards.

Blake, who suffered a sprained ankle against Armstrong in the regular-season finale, didn’t play against Bethel Park. He finished his season as the team’s leading rusher with 980 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Kiski Area capped its season at 5-6. Albert credited the team for staying the course and coming up big in crunch time against Mars and Armstrong to solidify its place in the final conference standings at 4-3.

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“The kids battled all year with a lot of heart,” Albert said. “To finish third in a really competitive conference, they have a lot to be proud of.

“I told the seniors that they put us where we need to be as a program. They showed great leadership. Now, when you play Kiski, it’s no longer a walk. You know you are going to be in a fight. Now, of course, the younger kids have to take it to the next level.”

Just short of 2K

Shane Susnak fell just short of 2,000 passing yards for his senior season.

The Fox Chapel quarterback completed 18 of 25 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, in Friday night’s 48-7 loss to Penn-Trafford in the opening round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

He finished the season with 1,930 yards, which puts him among the best in the WPIAL.

Over the past two seasons, he accumulated 3,058 passing yards.

Those statistics might not be the most memorable numbers from Susnak’s high school career, however.

He carries a 4.4 GPA and scored a 1540 out of 1600 on his SATs and 35 out of 36 on the ACT.

A-R falls short

The closest an A-K Valley team came to winning a playoff game Friday was Apollo-Ridge.

The Vikings scored two touchdowns within four minutes during the fourth quarter to trim a 28-7 New Brighton lead to 28-21 with 1 minute, 30 seconds to go.

Then came the controversy.

An onside kick attempted by Apollo-Ridge was picked up by Klay Fitzroy, who tapped the football toward his chest and raced to the Lions 43.

An official tossed his white bean bag at the 50, and it appeared the ball traveled the requisite 10 yards and the Vikings were in business.

The officials, however, conferred and ruled Fitzroy touched the ball before it went 10 yards and awarded possession to New Brighton. The Lions put on the finishing touches three plays later and held on to win 35-21.

Despite the heavy rains that began late Thursday, 100-year-old Owens Field held up well. There were muddy spots, and players lost their footing several times.

But, by and large, the natural turf held up well enough for New Brighton to accumulate 423 offensive yards and Apollo-Ridge 384 yards.

It was New Brighton’s first playoff victory since defeating Seton La Salle and Jeannette in 2001. The Vikings were seeking their first playoff win since defeating Beaver Falls in 2014.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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