Jeannette, state-final opponent Steelton-Highspire have rich histories

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Sunday, November 22, 2020 | 7:44 PM


How did you spend your Saturday afternoon?

Jeannette football coach Roy Hall spent it watching his team’s next opponent on video stream.

His tone was a lot better than it was less than 24 hours earlier after his team’s 48-12 win against Reynolds in the PIAA Class A semifinals.

Jeannette (10-1) will face District 3 champion Steelton-Highspire at 11 a.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium. Steelton-Highspire used a late field goal to edge District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle, 16-14. Bishop Guilfoyle had a chance at the win but missed a 36-yard field goal.

Hall was a little grumpy after Friday’s win because of the all the distractions: coronavirus and the uncertainty surrounding it. Jeannette dressed only 24 players because of injuries and covid-19 concern.

“We had players playing out of position at times,” Hall said. “I was happy we got the win because I wasn’t sure we’d even play. I’m hoping we stay covid-19- and quarantine-free this week.”

It was all hands on deck for the Jayhawks on Friday as they played without freshman quarterback Brad Birch, senior wide receiver/linebacker Toby Cline and sophomore defensive back Noah Sanders.

The combination of Louis Calloway and Basil Wilson played in Cline’s linebacker spot. Noah Sanders was going to play in Cline’s spot, too.

Hall said he is unsure if Cline and Sanders will be available for the championship game.

The final features two of the winningest programs in the state. Jeannette is fourth with an overall record of 766-319-40, and Steelton-Highspire is fifth with a mark of 763-439-55.

Jeannette is the top team in the WPIAL with 10 WPIAL titles and two PIAA titles. Steelton-Highspire has won two PIAA titles.

Jeanette won a Class 2A title in 2007 and a Class A title in ’17. Steel-High won Class A titles in 2007 and ’08.

The PIAA started playing state playoffs in 1988.

“They have nice size and are very athletic like us,” Hall said. “They have a freshman quarterback (Andrew Erby Jr.) and a four-star wide receiver (Mehki Flowers).

“We’ll get together as a staff on Monday and figure out the best way to prepare for them. When I was watching, I checked out Bishop Guilfoyle’s roster and it had six or seven guys more than 250 pounds.”

Hall was pleased how the defense played against Reynolds, stopping its running game and limiting star running back Cole Toy to 60 yards, 30 against the Jeannette reserves in the fourth quarter.

The Jeannette reserves outscored Reynolds’ first team 7-6.

The defense forced three turnovers, two interceptions by Brett Birch and a 41-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Brandon Penn. That gives Jeannette’s defense and special teams 13 touchdowns this season

Roberto Smith Jr. did a good job filling in at quarterback for Brad Birch, who is nursing a foot injury. Smith Jr. completed 6 of 14 passes for 278 yards and hit James Sanders with three passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.

“The more snaps Roberto gets, the better he’ll be,” Hall said. “This team has showed me a lot this season. They’ve faced adversity and responded well. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play on Friday.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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