Another big game for Landan Stevenson carries Mapletown past Monessen to Tri-County South title

Friday, October 21, 2022 | 11:15 PM

Monessen’s missed opportunities and ill-advised penalties and the hard-nosed running of Mapletown’s Landan Stevenson were the determining factors in a Week 8 de facto Tri-County South Conference championship game Friday night.

Stevenson ran the ball for 176 yards and threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter, as the Maples edged the Greyhounds, 26-18, to win the program’s third overall conference championship and its first since 2005.

“This is a great group of kids,” Mapletown coach George Messich said. “I am so proud of their effort and will to win. They are so fun to be around, and I am so proud of them for winning the conference title. That was our main goal this year. We had a team in 1968 that went undefeated and this team reminds me a lot of that team. They play for each other and truly care about each other on and off the field.”

The Maples (9-0, 6-0), who have won their first eight games of the season by an average of 40 points, made the critical plays to pull out the landmark victory for the program.

Mapletown visits West Greene on Friday for the regular season finale.

Coming into the game, Mapletown’s defense only allowed 7.1 points per game, third best in the WPIAL, but the Maples had trouble with the elusiveness of Monessen’s freshman tailback TyVaughn Kershaw.

“We had way too missed opportunities tonight,” Monessen coach Wade Brown said. “Turnovers, penalties and not scoring in the red zone killed us. We were with Mapletown and hung in with our running game. I thought we were stout on defense, but we just lost our composure at key times.”

Kershaw finished with 238 yards on 20 carries for the Greyhounds (5-4, 4-2).

“TyVaughn is a spectacular player,” Brown said. “We all knew that early on in the season. In the second half, he kept on telling us that he wanted the ball and he wasn’t shying away from a tough defense. He wanted the ball in the second half, and he was producing.”

Monessen was looking for its ninth conference title since 2003. The Greyhounds are now in a three-way tie for second place with California and Carmichaels. Monessen can clinch a playoff berth with a win at home versus Beth-Center on Friday.

In the fourth quarter, Mapletown extended its lead to 26-12 after completing a 12-play, 77-yard drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock and ended with a 4-yard quarterback keeper touchdown by Brody Evans.

Monessen got the ball near midfield on its next drive, and four plays later, Daniel Dozier plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out and trimmed the deficit to 26-18 with 4:57 left in regulation.

The Maples were forced to punt on their next possession and the Greyhounds started their next drive at midfield with 2:32 left in the fourth. After picking a first down on three straight runs by Kershaw, Monessen faced a fourth-and-inches from the 25-yard line three plays later.

The snap on the fourth down play was low and bobbled, as the home team recovered the loose ball and secured the Tri-County South victory with 26 seconds left.

“Our defense made the key stops when they had to,” Messich said. “Our linebackers were running around and getting into rushing lanes. We didn’t allow the big play and tackled well in space. With Landan running the ball tonight, he’s just a special talent. He runs so hard and has great vision.”

The Greyhounds took an early 6-0 lead in the first quarter, as Kershaw capped off an eight-play, 67-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.

The Maples only needed three plays to score on their opening possession, as Stevenson scored off a 10-yard run and then tallied the two-point run for an 8-6 lead.

Mapletown’s Evan Griffin ended the visitors’ next drive with an interception at the 9-yard line, and then the home team mounted a massive, 13-play, 91-yard drive that ended on a bizarre play.

Facing a third-and-19, the Maples were spread with linemen lining up everywhere on the line of scrimmage. Stevenson took the direct snap and then found Evans for a 61-yard score and a 14-6 lead with 8:22 left in the second quarter.

Monessen responded with a scoring drive of its own with Daevon Burke cashing in on a 3-yard touchdown. The Greyhounds had a chance to take the lead at the end of the first half after Davontae Clayton scooped up a fumble and returned it 47 yards to the 6-yard line.

Three procedure penalties and a 12-yard loss on a sack ended the drive for Monessen, as the Greyhounds were down 14-12 at halftime.

“It was very frustrating not scoring there at the end of the first half,” Brown said. “If we got the lead at halftime, who knows how this game plays out in the second half. I was just at a loss for words. I can’t believe we didn’t score there.”

Mapletown took its opening drive of the second half for a score, as Stevenson rumbled for a 2-yard scoring run with 7:23 left in the third quarter.

On Monessen’s next drive, Burke was stopped on a third-and-1 from the 43-yard line and instantly spiked the ball after the play was over. He then ripped off his helmet and slammed it to the ground in frustration, resulting in a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties and his ejection from the game.

With Burke gone for the most of the second half, Kershaw took over the running load on offense. For the game, Monessen was penalized 12 times for over 125 yards.

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