Big plays from Ross help Seneca Valley get past North Hills

Friday, September 10, 2021 | 10:33 PM

A week ago, Brandon Ross said Seneca Valley can’t win every game on the last play.

It wasn’t the last play Friday night at North Hills, but for the second week in a row, the senior wide receiver came through in crunch time.

Ross caught a screen pass from Graham Hancox and broke free for a 60-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, which combined with a stout defensive effort, was enough for Seneca Valley to top North Hills, 17-7, in a nonconference game at Martorelli Stadium.

“It’s a little screen play that we work on five to seven times every day at practice,” Ross said of his touchdown catch. “We ran it perfectly. Everybody blocked who they were supposed to block. There were a couple pancakes. Still though we can’t keep doing that. … I don’t like it coming down to the end of the game.”

Ross’ late-game heroics came shortly after North Hills’ Damon McKail missed a potential tying field goal.

North Hills put together a long drive and faced a 4th-and-3 at the Seneca Valley 13, but a false start pushed them back five yards. That brought out the field goal unit.

“We have to get points there,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said. “We probably should have taken the lead there and we didn’t. Then we go ahead and miss the field goal. That’s a big swing in the game.”

North Hills (2-1) had one last drive to try and cut it to a one score game, but on fourth down near midfield, John Green was sacked by Brian Olan, putting the game on ice for Seneca Valley (2-1).

“They are a good team with explosive players, so we had to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to do,” Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle said. “When we do that we are pretty good. We had some mental mistakes and penalties. We had a big fourth down stop (in the fourth quarter) and got called for illegal hands to the face. That can’t happen. We gave them another opportunity, but luckily we were able to get off the field unscathed.”

Seneca Valley quarterback Graham Hancox threw for more than 250 yards for the second week in a row. A number of his throws were designed screens, and it worked well. He completed 11 passes to Luke Lawson, the majority of them being screen passes. Lawson ended up with 128 yards receiving.

“They hit so many of those screens on us,” Carey said. “The pace they run is difficult to adapt to, but I thought our kids made some timely stops. They were able to move the ball and outgained us significantly, but we made stops that got us the ball back. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get points on offense.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Seneca Valley opened the scoring early in the second when Nolan Dworek broke free on the left side and scored from 24 yards out.

A fortunate bounce on a punt late in the quarter helped North Hills get in position to tie the game. Robert Dickerson attempted to catch a high-arching punt from Dworek near midfield, but the ball bounced off his legs and kicked sideways. Chase Foskey picked the ball up for North Hills and returned it all the way to the Seneca Valley 35-yard line.

North Hills lost 1 yard on the next three plays, but on fourth down, quarterback John Green rolled out to the right and heaved a ball into the end zone that was caught by Dickerson to tie it, 7-7.

A good return on the ensuing kickoff by Kai West setup Seneca Valley near midfield with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. The Raiders were able to get the ball down to the North Hills 22 yard line and Camden Bush booted a 39-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to give them a 10-7 lead.

“I remember last year in JV he had a 45 yarder,” Ross said of Bush. “Cam’s that dude. He’s got a big leg.”

Seneca Valley wide receiver Jacob Rape was taken off the sidelines on a stretcher and left the stadium in an ambulance after leaving the game with an injury in the third quarter. Butschle said that he was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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