A-K Valley high school football notebook: Several teams finally get in win column

Saturday, September 21, 2019 | 7:50 PM

The first win of the season can be a pretty nice feeling, but Fox Chapel delivered an even bigger win for coach Tom Loughran on Friday.

Zakaria’s Essaouab’s 23-yard field goal pushed the Foxes out to a 16-7 lead over Hampton, and that’s all they would need as they gave Loughran his 200th career victory, 16-13, at the Talbots’ Fridley Field.

“It was good just to get a victory, knowing we played poorly in our first game against Peters, but we’ve played better the last three weeks,” Loughran said. “We’re starting to get to a point where we have results to show for it, and the kids came through on Friday and played well.”

The Foxes were on the brink of victory during their first four games of the season but let up a big play or committed a crucial penalty. Against Hampton, the Foxes played well in all three phases of the game, earned their first victory and gave Loughran a special one.

“It’s nice that I’ve had the luxury of being around long enough to complete that many, but that was not foremost on my mind,” Loughran said. “Foremost on my mind was this year’s season and this year’s team.”

During his five years at Fox Chapel, Loughran has a 14-26 record and led the Foxes to the WPIAL playoffs twice. Before that, Loughran coached at South Park for 30-plus years. After retiring as a math teacher at the school, he coached one more year before coming to Fox Chapel.

Just like most coaches, there’s something that keeps bringing Loughran back year after year. His reason? He loves doing it day-in and day-out.

“I enjoy the opportunity to be around young kids and young men that are wanting to be involved in the game,” Loughran said. “I’m just happy to be doing it.”

Highlands, Freeport win

Along with Fox Chapel, Highlands (1-4, 1-2) and Freeport (1-3, 1-3) got in the win column Friday night in their own unique way.

The Golden Rams routed Northwest Eight Conference foe Beaver, 27-0. Brock White ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, and Chandler Thimons went 9 for 16 for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

“It feels good, but I’m mostly happy for the kids. They’ve been working hard,” Highlands coach Dom Girardi said. “For them to be able to come with a victory on Friday, I’m just happy for them.”

Before shutting Beaver out on their home turf, Highlands became the first team to hold Knoch running back Matt Goodlin to under 100 yards last week. Although that performance came in a loss, Girardi believes it was a turning point for his team.

“I felt like two weeks ago we played pretty well defensively against Knoch because they are very formidable,” Girardi said. “But it was a nice step in the right direction to get a shutout like that. They had a couple opporutnites, and our defense rose up and kept them off the scoreboard. I think anytime you can do that it’s kind of a boost to your morale and motivation.”

Also, Girardi and his team got star wide receiver and safety Johnny Crise back into the mix after he left the game in the third quarter last week. He caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Thimons to break open the scoring.

“He’s 100-percent now. He’s good to go, and he had a nice game on both sides of the ball,” Girardi said. “He’s a nice big target out there for us, and we’ll keep going to that well as long as we can.”

While the Golden Rams got on the scoreboard with their running and passing games, the Yellowjackets found the end zone in a myriad of ways on the way to a 56-14 victory over Uniontown. Javon Davis returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Ricky Hunter returned two punts for touchdowns. Luke Miller returned a third, and they also scored on an interception return and two passing and rushing touchdowns.

During last season, a 55-16 win over Uniontown kicked off a five-game winning streak for the Yellowjackets, and they made their way into the playoffs before being handed a first round loss by Aliquippa.

Kiski comes close

Kiski Area was on the brink of the biggest upset of the season Friday night when it took defending PIAA Class 5A champion Penn Hills to the edge in a 7-3 loss.

The only two scores of the game came in the second quarter. Cody Dykes drilled a 40-yard field goal for Kiski Area, then the Indians’ Eddie McKissick hit Dontae Pollard with a 14-yard strike.

“Our defensive back falls down, and to their credit, they put it on the money and the kid scored,” Kiski Area coach Sam Albert said. “So it was 7-3 at the half.”

While the Cavaliers were down, they were never out. They continued to stick to their game plan of keeping the ball away from Penn Hills with their wildcat offense. But with about two minutes to go, Albert said they went with their freshman quarterback Lebryn Smith.

“He was unbelievable,” Albert said. “We had two passes go right through our hands to win the game, but the kids just fought clear to the end. It was a great battle I was proud of our kids. They (Penn Hills) are a very good football team.”

Through five games this season, the Cavaliers are 2-3 overall and 1-3 in section, but after a game like that Albert believes there is a turn on the horizon.

“I told them, ‘Listen, if you can play like that against Penn Hills, with their team speed and athletes, man we can play like that against anybody,’ ” Albert said. “I thought the kids were just unbelievable last night, so, hopefully, we can build off that the rest of the year.”

Coming Attractions

Deer Lakes (3-2, 3-1) at Burrell (3-2, 2-2)

This Big East Conference matchup is set to be an exciting one with two high-powered offenses and strong-armed quarterbacks.

Shady Side Academy (3-1, 2-0) at Apollo Ridge (4-1, 2-1)

The Indians and the Vikings will battle for a better standing in the Allegheny Conference, and this one will important come playoff time.

Springdale (4-1, 1-1) at Greensburg Central Catholic (4-1, 3-1)

After suffering their first loss Friday, the Dynamos will be looking to bounce back with a crucial matchup against a key Tri-County South Conference opponent.

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Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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