Canon-McMillan boosts playoff hopes with convincing win over Norwin

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Friday, October 11, 2019 | 10:28 PM


If Norwin or Canon-McMillan had any thoughts of making the WPIAL playoffs, both teams knew their matchup Friday night was crucial to those hopes.

Norwin didn’t have an answer for Canon-McMillan’s run game headlined by Ryan Angott as the Big Macs defeated Norwin, 49-14, in Class 6A play.

Angott finished with 213 yards on 27 carries and four touchdowns. The Big Macs leaned on Angott since freshman quarterback Benjamin Urso played for the injured senior Jonathan Quinque.

“Our offensive line showed up and got some push. We worked on our double teams all week,” Canon-McMillan coach Mike Evans said. “There have been a lot of things that our kids had to deal with that wasn’t just playing high school football. I feel like we’re getting back to where we live, which is running the football first.”

With the win, the Big Macs earned the tiebreaker as both teams looked to grab the sixth and final playoff spot in Class 6A.

The Big Macs (2-6, 2-4) imposed their will from the start when they ran the ball on all six plays on their opening drive. It resulted in a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Blake Joseph.

On Norwin’s ensuing drive, Joseph recovered a Hayden O’Bryon fumble and the Big Macs took over at their 42-yard line.

Canon-McMillan ran it six more times on their second drive before Urso connected with Joseph on a 29-yard touchdown pass down the left side to give the Big Macs a 14-0 lead with over two minutes left in the first quarter.

“We couldn’t stop the run,” Norwin coach David Brozeski said. “We knew their quarterback was injured. They came out and were able to establish a very sustained running game.”

Norwin (2-6, 1-5) finally started to find its rhythm behind the arm of senior quarterback Jack Salopek, the Western Michigan recruit.

The Knights drove 80 yards on 11 plays when Salopek found Michael Ryan on a 15-yard slant as Norwin narrowed the deficit to 14-7 with 11 minutes left in the first half.

After an Angott fumble, the Knights capitalized on the short field and tied the score when Salopek found Sean Pavlic for a 10-yard touchdown.

On the next Big Macs drive, Angott made up for his fumble as he found the end zone from a yard out. Urso connected with tight end Connor McMahon for a 34-yard pass to set up the touchdown, as Canon-McMillan regained the lead, 21-14.

The Knights had a chance to tie the game as the first half came to a close after Angott fumbled again at midfield. However, Dane Matuscin picked off Salopek and ran it back 98 yards down the sideline for a touchdown to extend the lead to 28-14 with just under a minute left.

The Big Macs pulled away in the second half as Angott scored on three touchdown runs from 2, 5 and 10 yards.

“We didn’t play well enough to win,” Brozeski said. “We win as a team and we lose as a team. … We need to respond and get ready for next week.”

Canon-McMillan’s defense turned up the pressure as it disrupted Salopek’s timing with his receivers. The Big Macs had a sack-fumble, which led to Angott’s 5-yard run to extend Canon-McMillan’s lead to 42-14 in the third quarter.

“We thought since we had the lead, we could put some pressure on him,” Evans said. “We were 1-6, so everything was on the line for us tonight. We knew if we came out and scored, we really felt good about our chances. Our defense ramped it and wasn’t afraid to make a mistake.”

Salopek went 19 of 43 for 304 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception.

Norwin looks to keep its playoff hopes alive as it faces Mt. Lebanon next week and closes the season at Seneca Valley. The Big Macs will travel to Central Catholic before finishing the season at home against Butler.

“We have two games left and our most important game is the next one,” Brozeski said. “We’re in a situation where we’re going to have to come out and respond. I expect them to respond very positively.”

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