Jeannette uses huge second half to roll Reynolds, wrap up trip to state finals

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Friday, November 20, 2020 | 10:57 PM


TRANSFER — Reynolds played Jeannette tough in the first half of Friday’s PIAA Class A semifinal.

But a 12-minute outburst by the Jayhawks in the third quarter quickly turned a close game into a rout and had the District 10 champions thinking about the winter season.

Jeannette (10-1) scored 27 points in the third quarter and blew up Reynolds, 48-12, securing a trip to the PIAA championship game Nov. 27 in Hershey against the winner of Saturday’s game between Bishop Guilfoyle and Steelton-Highspire.

Senior Roberto Smith Jr., starting for the injured Brad Birch, rushed for three touchdowns and completed a 67-yard scoring strike to James Sanders. Smith Jr. completed only 6-of-15 passes but for 278 yards.

Sanders caught three passes for 191 yards, and Brett Birch had three catches for 87 yards. Reynolds’ defense had problems with Jeannette’s shifty wide receivers.

“The win means a lot, but I hope we get there. Stay covid-19 and quarantine free,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “We literally had players out of position. I’ve been coaching for 35 years, and this is the biggest distraction of my life.”

Without Brad Birch, it took Smith Jr. and the offense a couple of series to get started.

The defense was tested right away after a snap sailed over Kaelan Piscar’s head in punt formation, giving Reynolds the ball at the Jeannette 27. The defense pushed Reynolds backwards and took over on the 28.

A series later, facing third-and-8, Smith launched 59-yard strike to Sanders to the Reynolds 20 to set up the first score. Smith Jr., after completing a 23-yard pass to Brett Birch, scored from the 3 to make it 7-0.

“I just started off slow,” Smith Jr. said. “Once I hit James with that pass, the offense took off. The second half, the defense took over.”

Reynolds trimmed its deficit to 7-6 when quarterback Brayden McCloskey scored from the 3 to finish off an 11-play, 46-yard drive. It was the only drive Reynolds could establish on the ground against the Jayhawks.

A minute later, Smith Jr. hit Sanders on a slant around near midfield and the senior speedster outraced the Reynolds secondary for a 67-yard score.

When Reynolds went to the air in the first half, its last two drives resulted in interceptions by Brett Birch.

The third quarter turned into a disaster for Reynolds (9-1). A short punt resulted in a three-play scoring drive with Smith Jr. getting in from the 11.

A snap over the punter’s head set up Jeannette at the Reynolds 4. Jaydin Canady scored to make it 28-6.

Smith Jr. and Sanders hooked up a 65-yard pass to set up Smith’s third score of the game, a 4-yard run, to make it 34-6.

“We made too many mistakes and had too many penalties,” Reynolds coach Josh Mull said. “When you do that against a really good team, you’ll get yourself in trouble.

“That’s first half was great football. When you start making mistakes like we did, they’re going to capitalize on it.”

Jeannette finished off the third quarter with a defensive score. Ryan Kimmel sacked McCloskey, who fumbled and Brandon Penn scooped and scored from 41 yards out.

Basil Wilson tacked on another score for the Jayhawks in fourth quarter on a 10-yard run, and Reynolds finished the scoring against the Jeannette reserves to make it 48-12.

“We had a great team effort,” Sanders said. “Everybody stepped up to do their part. I knew if we did that, we’d come out with the win. We’re bringing back that feeling from freshman year.”

Jeannette, which will be playing for a state title for the fourth time, won the 2017 championship in Class A. The other two Hershey trips were in 2006 and 2007 in Class AA.

“The defense stepped up the entire game,” Hall said. “We made a few adjustments, and the kids responded.”

Jeannette outgained Reynolds, 380-146. Reynolds’ top running back, Cole Toy, rushed for 60 yards, but 30 came against Jeannette’s reserves.

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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