Kiski Area fends off Armstrong upset bid

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Friday, October 25, 2019 | 11:14 PM


With playoff positioning on the line and their workhorse running back injured, the Kiski Area Cavaliers masterfully staged a late, 10-play drive that ate up nearly five minutes of the clock.

Luke Lander scored from 5 yards out with 2 minutes, 37 seconds to go to secure a 35-26 victory at Dick Dilts Stadium.

Kenny Blake, who carried the ball 45 times last week against Mars, had 25 carries against the River Hawks before sustaining a leg injury late in the third period. He sat out as a precaution the rest of the way while Lander ran the ball for all 10 plays in the final drive.

The victory, combined with the Mars win over Hampton and Shaler’s win over Fox Chapel, gave the Cavaliers (5-5, 4-3) a lock on third place from the Northern Conference.

“I was worried about this game all week,” said Kiski Area coach Sam Albert. “We’re coming off the big win at Mars and this is a rivalry game. But we put it in Luke’s hands and pulled it out at the end.”

Blake walked off the field under his own power after the game but reluctantly accepted a golf-cart ride to the locker room. He is expected to play in the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs next Friday.

Armstrong (1-8, 0-7) had nothing to lose and gave the Cavaliers all they could handle.

On fourth-and-3 at the River Hawks 38 in the fourtgh quarter, Armstrong quarterback Cole Brown skirted right end and got loose for a 62-yard scoring run along the sideline to cut the Kiski Area lead — once at 18 points — to just 28-26.

“Kiski-Armstrong, a rivalry, one where you throw the records out,” said River Hawks coach Frank Fabian. “I’m proud of our kids. I told them in the huddle that I’ve been on 9-1 teams that have had more drama than we’ve had. That’s a testament to our seniors.”

The Cavaliers scored on their first two drives, the latter set up by a partially blocked punt from Peyton McCann. When Lander scored on a 10-yard keeper with 2:37 left in the half, Kiski Area appeared in charge, 21-3.

But a 32-yard field goal by Adam Hudock, his second of the quarter, cut the lead to 21-6 at the half.

Armstrong, after winning the pregame coin toss and deferring, took the ball 65 yards on seven plays, helped by a 40-yard pass from Brown to Justin Waugaman.

Kiski Area answered quickly with Blake’s third 3-yard touchdown run of the night, set up by McCann’s 48-yard kickoff return.

In a key play of the game, Armstrong had the ball at the Cavaliers 2 when Justin Hessom forced a fumble that sophomore Brock Wilkins pounced on.

“That was big,” Albert said. “Our defense did a great job. I was proud of our kids. They had momentum but we shut the door.”

Brown threw for 160 yards and ran for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“We’ve gone against Sammy (Albert) a couple times. He’s a cover zero defense that’s high risk, high reward,” Fabian said. “It’s nice to see our guys make some plays. We were disappointed in the red zone. We had a holding and settled for a field goal. Then we had an assignment bust and their nose guard hit our quarterback.”

Blake finished with 205 rushing yards, Lander 178.

Kiski Area, in the WPIAL playoffs for the 21st time, will find out its first opponent Monday at the WPIAL pairings meeting.

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