Dylan Sleva drives dominant 4th quarter as No. 1 Moon outlasts Upper St. Clair

Friday, October 15, 2021 | 11:08 PM

There wasn’t much surprise whenever Dylan Sleva got the football in the fourth quarter, yet Moon kept feeding their 225-pound battering ram.

Twenty-nine times Sleva carried the ball Friday.

“We ran like the same play five times in a row,” Moon lineman Trent Fraley said. “They know it’s coming and they can’t stop it.”

Sleva finished with 201 yards rushing Friday night, and his physical style let top-ranked Moon play keep away in the fourth quarter of a 16-13 victory over Upper St. Clair that broke their first-place tie in the Allegheny Six.

Moon (8-0, 3-0) remains tied with Bethel Park (5-3, 3-0) atop the conference standings.

“We love to run the ball,” said Sleva, who had a 3-yard touchdown in the first half. “I kind of expected this a little bit. But did you say 29 carries? I didn’t expect 29, for sure.”

The running back and linebacker had 105 yards on 14 carries in the fourth quarter alone as Moon dominated time of possession behind an offensive line with five seniors. Sleva carried the ball on 14 of his team’s first 16 plays in the fourth. His final carry was a game-clinching 55-yard gain with less than 2 minutes left.

“I’ve got to thank the boys up front,” Sleva said. “They’re the reason why we have so much success running the ball.”

Sleva injured an ankle on his last carry but predicted he’d be OK for next week when Moon hosts Bethel Park.

“He’s a bull,” Moon coach Ryan Linn said. “He’s 225 pounds and can wear teams down.”

Upper St. Clair had the football for just 76 seconds in the fourth quarter and ran only four plays. USC actually outscored Moon, 3-2, in the second half but rarely had the ball.

“We didn’t get an opportunity in the second half to do much of anything,” USC coach Mike Junko said. “We just couldn’t get off the field in key moments.”

Upper St. Clair did have one chance for a late drive. Trailing 14-13 with less than 5 minutes left, the Panthers stopped Sleva inches short on a fourth-down run at the 3-yard line. That ended a 15-play, 9-minute drive for Moon.

However, with its offense backed up against the goal line, USC was flagged for holding in the end zone two plays later. Moon received two points for a safety and possession of the ball.

Moon then ate three more minutes from the clock and punted with 16 seconds left.

“They’re just a real physical group,” Junko said. “That was their plan to kind of impose their will, so they did a good job of that in the second half.”

Upper St. Clair had taken a 7-0 lead on the opening possession when wide receiver Nicholas Derubeis recovered an offensive fumble and carried it 2 yards for a touchdown.

But Moon answered immediately with touchdowns on its first two possessions.

The first was an eight-play, 65-yard drive, ending with a 2-yard touchdown run by Jeremiah Dean. The second covered 89 yards in eight plays, ending with a 3-yard touchdown run by Sleva to lead 14-7.

Moon never trailed again.

“We talked about controlling the clock and keeping them off the field,” Linn said. “They’re dynamic. They’re big. They’re athletic. They have a good looking team that’s going to scare some people come playoff time.”

USC’s Bennett Henderson made two field goals to pull the Panthers within a point. The sophomore converted a 42-yarder in the second quarter and a 31-yarder in the third to trail 14-13.

“We had the one good drive and then in the fourth quarter we really didn’t get it back,” Junko said. “It’s tough to gauge what else we could have done there because we were on our heels for much of the second half.”

Moon leaned on a wildcat offense in the fourth quarter with Sleva taking direct snaps. The Tigers used it in a Week Zero win over Seneca Valley but had kept it under wraps in recent weeks.

“We get a great push,” Sleva said. “It brings out that old-fashioned football. It’s really fun to play that kind of way.”

Listen to an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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