Despite shortened schedule Gateway football preparing for run at WPIAL title

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Sunday, October 18, 2020 | 11:01 AM


The WPIAL last Wednesday revealed a plan to populate the football playoff brackets and deal with unbalanced records and schedules in several of the classifications among a wider announcement of postseason strategies for fall sports.

With Gateway expected to finish with four games played in the regular season — it is scheduled to conclude with a Big East matchup Friday at Connellsville — coach Don Holl, his coaching staff and players were eager to hear what the WPIAL had to say.

The WPIAL, in an online meeting of its board of directors, put forth changes to the playoff selection process if qualifiers aren’t clearly defined in the conference standings. The WPIAL would ask its steering committee to help fill in the brackets and possibly use head-to-head records, common opponents, strength of schedule and other factors to determine the top teams.

Eight teams will fill out the bracket in Class 5A, and the pairings for all six classifications are expected to be released online Saturday or Sunday via the Triblive High School Sports Network.

Holl said despite his team’s resume with fewer games than normal, it should be right in the mix for a shot at the program’s second straight WPIAL title and third crown in four years.

“It’s a problem that has never before been dealt with, and I am sure the WPIAL has thought of everything to make it work as best as possible,” Holl said. “When we have conference champions and decisions have had to be made about seeding, I’ve always been impressed with the way the committee has done its due diligence. You’re never going to make everyone happy, but that is the nature of the process. But most of the time they get it right, and my sense is that they will come up with a fair plan.”

Gateway was scheduled to face conference foe Woodland Hills last Saturday. The game was to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Hoping to build on a 2-0 start, Gateway was gearing up for a highly anticipated matchup with WPIAL power and Class 5A newcomer Pine-Richland on Sept. 25.

But a positive covid-19 test involving a player put a halt to the game and kept the Gators off the field from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7.

Gateway’s conference game at Latrobe on Oct. 2 also was canceled.

“We just talked with the guys about keeping their minds right and being smart about what they were doing during the time off,” Holl said. “We wanted to stay sharp with what we were doing with Zoom meetings and other things we could do. … We sometimes overplay the kids-are-resilient card, but they were.”

The Gators returned to practice Oct. 8 to prepare for a game against conference rival Penn-Trafford. The game originally was moved to Sunday, Oct. 11, to give Gateway additional practice time to prepare. However, Penn-Trafford’s own issues with covid-19 cases caused the game to be canceled.

“Just like starting preseason camp, all of the guys were ready for that first practice back,” Holl said. “It was high energy. Everyone couldn’t wait to put the pads on. The next practice, it looked like we hadn’t practiced in a couple of weeks. It was kind of sloppy. But the guys worked through it and learned from it, even if it was a reminder for the guys that they need to bring it to practice every day.”

What must have seemed like a lifetime ago for Gateway fans, the Gators kicked off the season Sept. 11 with a 41-7 rout of Big East Conference neighbor Franklin Regional behind 297 yards passing and five touchdowns in the varsity starting debut of quarterback Carsen Engleka.

Four of those touchdown passes went to Chamor Price, who caught five overall for 200 yards.

Derrick Davis complemented the passing game with 126 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

Gateway didn’t slow down in Week 2 as the Gators scored early and often in a 55-14 win over Bethel Park.

All 55 points for Gateway were scored in the first half as Davis recorded four touchdowns and 152 yards on 10 carries.

Patrick Body caught two touchdown passes from Engleka, and Shane Thrift and Jayden Hurt added TD receptions.

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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