Five things we learned in Week 2: WPIAL’s longest losing streak is over

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Saturday, September 10, 2022 | 8:29 PM


Team captains Aaron Hobel and Brighton Mariacher are fourth-year players on Ellwood City’s football team, yet their senior class never had celebrated a win.

That changed Friday night.

Ellwood City snapped the WPIAL’s longest active losing streak with a 46-6 nonconference win over Carlynton, the team’s first since Oct. 26, 2018. The Wolverines had lost 27 games in a row but won’t have to hear about that streak anymore.

“I think everybody is just happy,” first-year coach Dan Bradley said. “Happy to win. Happy the streak is over. They can enjoy it a little bit and get ready for next week.”

Before Friday, Ellwood City’s most recent win was in the 2018 season finale. The team then went 0-10 in 2019, 0-7 in 2020, 0-8 in 2021 and started this year with two losses.

Stopping the streak was a mission for everyone on the team, Bradley said, but it had to be satisfying for the two seniors who had endured all of the losses. Hobel caught a 2-point conversion pass in the win.

“You could just see it in their eyes and their actions,” Bradley said. “It was definitely a good moment for both of them.”

Friday turned out to be a good night for streaks to end. Summit Academy had owned the third-longest active streak at 14 losses before the Knights celebrated an 18-14 win over Springdale.

The longest active streak now belongs to Brownsville at 23 losses. However, Brownsville left WPIAL football this season for an independent schedule.

The next longest belong to Frazier at 13 and Derry at 12.

Ellwood City is looking for a turnaround under Bradley, who was hired in January. He went 49-19 in six seasons as Our Lady of the Sacred Heart coach with a WPIAL Class A title in 2018 and a runner-up finish last season.

Bradley’s decision to leave OLSH for Ellwood City was maybe surprising, but he says he sees potential in the Wolverines. This year’s roster has only five seniors but almost three dozen freshmen and sophomores. The team started the year with losses to Brentwood, 34-21, and Union, 20-6, before Friday’s breakthrough win.

“We’ve been getting better and better,” Bradley said. “We knew that if we continued to get better, the wins would come. But it’s better (to win) sooner rather than later. The longer it goes, the harder it gets.”

‘We needed to win’

Can a Week 2 game be called must-win?

Canon-McMillon coach Mike Evans believes so and feels confident his team survived one Friday night. The Big Macs put themselves in a stronger position in Class 6A by defeating Seneca Valley, 33-21.

The Big Macs are 1-2 overall, 1-1 in the conference.

“In 20 years of coaching, we never needed to win a game as much as we needed to win that one,” Evans said.

The WPIAL’s largest classification has five teams, so each plays only four conference games. A loss would have dropped Canon-Mac to 0-3 overall, 0-2 in conference play with 6A foes Central Catholic and Mt. Lebanon left on the schedule.

The top four teams qualify for the playoffs.

Most WPIAL teams haven’t started conference play and won’t for another week or two. Because of the quirkiness of the WPIAL 6A schedule, Canon-Mac had the misfortune of jumping into conference play in Weeks 1 and 2.

“It’s a shame to not have a couple of exhibition games,” Evans said. “You don’t even have a chance to get into your best form. I understand (the WPIAL’s situation) but find me another team that’s played two conference games.”

All combined, Evans said his team might have the toughest schedule in the state.

The Big Macs lost in Week Zero to defending PIAA Class 5A champion Penn-Trafford and in Week 1 to conference foe North Allegheny. They bounced back Friday behind running back Jake Kasper, who rushed for 153 yards and four touchdowns against Seneca Valley.

“It was a heck of a week, but it was a good win,” Evans said. “I’m relieved we can move on. … I’ve got good kids, but if you start 0-3, you have a hard time motivating guys.”

Next on the team’s schedule are nonconference games against Bethel Park and South Fayette.

Winning with style

Indiana sure has a knack for dramatic wins.

The Little Indians celebrated a rare walk-off win Friday night when kicker Tristan Redinger made a 25-yard field goal as time expired to defeat Shady Side Academy, 23-22. This was the second week in a row that Indiana earned a one-point win and Redinger was involved both times.

In Week 1, the junior kicked the winning extra point in double overtime to defeat Knoch, 32-31.

Blackhawk and Gateway also won games this week with a field goal in the final seconds.

Blackhawk’s Devon Thomas made a 33-yarder with 15 seconds remaining to beat Mars, 15-14. Gateway’s Cole Plaskon made a 19-yarder with 30 seconds left for a 20-17 win over North Hills.

Small school, big talent

Imani Christian is one of the state’s smallest schools, but the Saints have some of the WPIAL’s biggest talents.

Consider: Imani sophomore linebacker Dayshaun Burnett already has Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia offers, and 6-foot-9 sophomore basketball star Alier Maluk is a five-star prospect with multiple D-I options.

After Friday night, add another name to the school’s list: Imani freshman running back/defensive back David Davis, who rushed for 293 yards and three touchdowns in a 22-7 win over South Allegheny.

His big night came four days after announcing a Penn State offer.

“He’s one of the best players I’ve seen and I’ve seen some great ones,” Imani coach LaRoi Johnson said. “He plays his heart out on every single play. He wants to win. He wants to be special. He works to be the best.”

Davis scored Friday on touchdown runs of 74, 98 and 56 yards.

In Week 1, the freshman also rushed for three touchdowns and had 261 yards.

Late-game strategy

A coaching adage says, when on the road, skip the tie and go for the win. Two daring WPIAL teams might rethink that strategy after heartbreaking losses.

Washington and Montour had a late-game decision to make: kick a tying extra point or try for a winning 2-point conversion. Both took the gutsy route Friday and lost.

• With 78 seconds left, Washington’s 2-point run was stopped short of the end zone, letting Serra Catholic escape with a 35-34 win.

• With 12 seconds left, Montour tried a 2-point pass but the attempt failed, and South Fayette held on for a 20-19 win.

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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