Elizabeth Forward capitalizes on South Allegheny mistakes in Interstate victory

Saturday, October 9, 2021 | 12:42 AM

Elizabeth Forward used a number of South Allegheny miscues to take a commanding three-score lead after the first 10 minutes Friday night and cruised to a 36-7 win over its WPIAL Class 3A Interstate Conference rivals at Glassport Memorial Stadium.

The first offensive snap of the game went in the Warriors’ favor as South Allegheny quarterback Eric Wehrer threw a long pass down the sideline that was picked off by EF’s Charlie Nigut.

Eight plays later, the Warriors turned the pick into points as Kyle Flournoy scored on a 32-yard touchdown run to give Elizabeth Forward (5-2, 3-0) a 7-0 lead.

“Taking advantage of those mistakes, especially that early interception, that gave us the momentum we needed,” EF coach Mike Collodi said. “We knew they were going to test Charlie back there. You see this little freshman back there guarding a big receiver, we knew it was coming. But Charlie made a great play and catch to get us the turnover.”

On the third play of the ensuing drive for the Gladiators, Eric Wehrer mishandled the snap from center, and EF’s Johnny DiNapoli scooped it up and rolled 20 yards for another touchdown, just 19 seconds after the opening score.

“Against a good team like that, you can’t have those kind of mistakes,” SA coach Frank Cortazzo said. “That’s what I told them we couldn’t come out there and do. When you’re playing EF, there’s no room for mistakes.”

“You know we preach fast and physical defensively. We want all hats to the ball,” Collodi said. “That was a great play by Johnny to be aware and scoop it up.

“They have a lot of good players over there, so we wanted to make sure we were as physical as possible at the point of attack.”

After forcing a punt on the next drive, the Warriors went right down the field again, this time an eight-play, 52-yard drive that ended with Zion White finding Nigut for a 23-yard touchdown strike to make it 20-0.

In the first quarter, the Warriors’ defense held the Gladiators to minus-3 yards of offense. The South Allegheny offense entered feeling good about themselves after scoring 119 points in their last two games.

“That’s against Brownsville and Yough, but yeah, I think there was a lot of confidence coming in,” Cortazzo said. “I just kept telling them that we had to keep our heads in the game. We just had trouble getting anything started, and we couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm when we had the ball.”

In the second quarter, the Warriors turned the ball over on downs, but the special teams unit got into the act of causing havoc for South Allegheny (2-5, 2-2).

The Gladiators’ Dakotah Morabeto tried to punt from his own end zone, but DiNapoli nearly beat the snap to Morabeto’s hands. He was swallowed under and tried to throw the ball out of the end zone, but the officials ruled he was down for a safety to make it 22-0.

“We work so much on special teams, it was great to finally see that pay off,” Collodi said of the unit. “That’s a big play there after missing an earlier extra point.”

After the ensuing free kick, things went from bad to worse for the Gladiators, as the Warriors needed only one play to hit paydirt with DiNapoli rolling 49 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 29-0 lead.

The Gladiators picked up their first two first downs on consecutive plays in the final seconds of the half, but they were unable to put any points up before intermission.

“I thought we started to show some signs in the final seconds of the first half,” Cortazzo said. “We started to do some good things and find some room out there in our two-minute offense. We just had to come in at the half and regroup.”

After a lightning delay and thunderstorm halted play at the half for an extra hour and 20 minutes, the Warriors drove the opening kickoff down the field, chewing up more than eight minutes of the clock.

DaVontay Brownfield capped off the 14-play, 60-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to bring the running clock into play.

The Gladiators added a late touchdown as a 55-yard pass completion from Jett Jones to Kavan Markwood set up Akell Carrington’s 5-yard run with just over three minutes left in the game.

For the game, the Warriors held the Gladiators to 96 yards of offense, 70 coming on their scoring drive.

“With so many young players, I think we’re finding our stride,” Collodi said. “A lot of people had us written off after some tough losses early in the season. But we’re rolling now and we’re hoping to keep it going into a big game next week.”

The Warriors will host Mt. Pleasant in a game with conference-title implications next week.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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