Jeannette takes down Rochester, gets rematch with Clairton in WPIAL title game

Friday, November 6, 2020 | 10:53 PM

Jeannette coach Roy Hall told his team the key to defeating Rochester was controlling the line of scrimmage.

That’s what No. 3 Jeannette did Friday in the WPIAL Class A semifinals at Rochester Stadium.

The Jayhawks (8-1) controlled both sides of the line and gashed the Rams, 40-13, to advance to the championship game at 11 a.m. Nov. 14 against No. 1 Clairton, which routed Shenango, at North Hills Martorelli Stadium.

Jeannette is attempting to win its 10th title and is playing in its 16th championship game.

Jeannette has won three of the four meetings in the playoffs against Rochester.

The Jayhawks used a balanced offensive attack, rushing for 233 yards and passing for 163, while holding Rochester to 188 yards on the ground and 53 through the air.

The Jayhawks also sacked quarterback Parker Lyons, who returned to the lineup after missing four games, two times and picked him off four times.

“It was a team effort,” Hall said. “Our defense played great and the coaches did a great job calling the game. We ran the ball well and I feel they probably felt we’d throw, throw, throw.

“Our offensive line really stepped up. We said it before the game, that’s where we’d win the game, the line, and they did a great job.”

Roberto Smith Jr. rushed for 134 yards and scored two touchdowns, and freshman quarterback Brad Birch connected on 14 of 23 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns, all to his brother Brett (25, 14 and 11 yards).

Brett Birch, who caught eight passes for 91 yards, also had an interception and finished the scoring with a 71-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter.

“The key to the win was stopping their offense and getting them to throw the ball,” Brett Birch said. “We did what we had to do; guys made blocks and we made big plays.”

Jeannette struck first on its second possession of the game, driving 60 yards in four plays. Brad Birch scrambled for 18 yards, and Toby Cline swept around right end for 13 yards before Brad Birch found his brother, junior Brett, wide open in the flat for a 25-yard score.

Rochester responded, thanks to an unsportsmanlike penalty by the Jayhawks and a lucky bounce, to make it 7-6 when Jerome Mullins caught a 7-yard strike from Lyons.

“Jeannette is a very good football team,” Rochester coach Gene Matsook said. “They have kids that have been around the block. We played well in the first half, and I felt we were right where we needed to be.

“In the second half we broke down in some areas and they got the two-touchdown lead.”

Jeannette made it 13-6 early in the second quarter by driving 72 yards in eight plays behind the running of Smith Jr. and Brad Birch. Smith Jr. capped the drive with a 16-yard score as he ran over Mullins at the goal-line. Jeannette missed the extra point.

Rochester tied the score at 13 when junior Sal Laure scored on a 2-yard run after Lyons and Mullins connected on a 38-yard strike.

Last week against Springdale, Rochester ran 69 plays, 68 on the ground.

Cline’s interception at the Jeannette 40 set up the Jayhawks next score. The Jayhawks drove 60 yards in eight plays as Brad Birch connected on a 25-yard strike to Kaelan Piscar on third-and-9 to the Rochester 34, and then hit his brother Brett again, this time on a 14-yard strike on third-and-9. Brett Birch made a juggling catch in the back of the end zone.

“I’m proud of my team,” Matsook said. “No one thought we’d be in this position. We only have six seniors on the team.”

The first half ended when Brett Birch intercepted a Lyons pass at the Jeannette 3.

“Getting the touchdown before halftime was real big,” Hall said. “It stopped their momentum and coming out the second half and getting the stop and them scoring was also big. We always say the first series of the most important.”

After the key stop to start the third quarter, the Jayhawks stretched the lead to 27-13 when the Birches connected on an 11-yard play.

Smith and Brett Birch capped the scoring in the fourth quarter, sending the Jayhawks to the finals.

One area Hall was disappointed in were the 11 penalties for 115 yards that cost his team.

But the Jayhawks found a way to overcome those mistakes.

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

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