Gateway shakes off rust, holds off Woodland Hills

Saturday, October 17, 2020 | 11:13 PM

After not playing for 28 days, the Gateway Gators returned to action Saturday night and had to hold off a late effort by neighboring Woodland Hills.

The No. 2-rated Gators saw their lead reduced to five points with 1 minute, 54 seconds left to play and virtually ran out the clock to defeat the Wolverines, 21-16.

Both teams used big plays on both sides of the ball at Turtle Creek’s Wolvarena.

Gateway’s Derrick Davis ran for 94 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 63 yards while quarterback Carsen Engelka threw for 125 yards. Woodland Hills junior Deontae Williams ran for 77 yards and passed for 130 yards, including a 62-yard aerial to T’Rek Scipio.

The Gators are now 3-0, 2-0 in Big East Conference play, while Woodland Hills is 4-2, 2-2.

Woodland Hills leads the all-time series, 19-7.

With Gateway in front 21-8, Woodland Hills scored on a 26-yard run by Williams, twisting and turning his way into the end zone. Williams then tossed a 2-point conversion to Armani Bailey.

With Woodland Hills having just one time out left, Gateway ran the clock down to 15 seconds and punted. Bailey returned the punt into Gateway territory but couldn’t get out of bounds before time expired.

Gateway coach Don Holl said it was hard to evaluate the team from the sideline after the layoff.

“All we came in here to try to do was win a football game tonight,” Holl said. “We played a very emotionally charged team that had a lot on the line. We’re the defending champions and we’re neighbors, so we had to overcome that, too.”

Gateway was driving for an early score when Gavin Yarbough picked off an Engleka pass at the Wolverines 5. Woodland Hills drove to the Gateway 29 before losing possession on downs.

The Gators took advantage of the defensive stop and drove 71 yards in 14 plays for the game’s initial score. A 15-yard pass to Patrick Body Jr. to the Wolverines 32 was followed by a 15-yard Woodland Hills penalty for roughing the passer.

“We had some chances in the first half but made some mistakes,” Wolverines coach Tim Bostard said. “We drove the ball well, and that got us back into the game.”

On first-and-goal, Davis was stopped for a 3-yard loss to the 10. But the Wolverines were called for offsides, and the Gators scored three plays later on a Jayden Hurt option pass.

Gateway received favorable field position following a 19-yard Woodland Hills punt to the 30. The Gators used the short field to score in three plays. A Body Jr. reverse to the 1 set up a quick burst by Davis for a 14-0 Gators lead with 4:19 left in the half.

Wolverines senior Keyshawn Davis recovered a muffed punt early in the third period, but Woodland Hills yielded possession when Jermir Harber recovered a fumble. Gateway then punted on fourth down.

A Body interception at the Gators 12 set up the final touchdown drive as Gateway went 88 yards in 11 plays with 6-foot, 245-pound Kelvon Nelson nimbly sidestepping some defenders into the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning score.

“Kelvon’s such an interesting talent for being so big and strong,” Holl said. “He’s a great athlete, also as a defensive lineman.”

Nelson had a big sack in the fourth quarter that delayed the final Woodland Hills drive and J.T. Taylor had 10 tackles, three for losses.

Eric Seibles rushed for 72 yards for the Wolverines on 22 carries.

“We ended up with some injuries in the second half,” Bostard said. “We changed things up and had some playmakers make some plays.”

Gateway had three consecutive games postponed because of coronavirus issues. They’re not the first WPIAL to suffer such a plight. In 1957, New Kensington High School had three straight games postponed because of the Asian flu and finished 7-0 but did not qualify for the WPIAL title game.

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