Late-season success boosts confidence for Shaler football
Thursday, November 7, 2019 | 8:06 PM
Once the Class 5A football playoffs started, things got ugly for the WPIAL’s Northern Conference.
While the conference had the most playoff participants, as Fox Chapel snagged the wild card, only Penn Hills remained after the smoke cleared.
The other five teams lost by a combined margin of 28.6 points per game. Shaler wasn’t one of the teams that got blitzed.
The No. 15 seed Titans (4-7) were tied entering the fourth quarter before second-seeded Gateway pulled away with two touchdowns from Derrick Davis in a 35-21 victory.
“Our kids did a great job with focusing during the week of practice leading up to the game,” Shaler football coach James Ryan said.
“They were able to execute the game plan and did a great job matching up against a talented, strong opponent. I’m really proud of the effort and focus.”
While Shaler doesn’t plan to live on moral victories, it was a big step for a program making consecutive playoff trips for the first time since 2008-09.
“It was a pretty cool experience to compete with a top team like that,” Shaler running back Jake Miller said.
“Shaler hasn’t been able to do that in the last couple years, but I feel like we finally changed the culture. I feel like we were better prepared than the other teams in our conference.”
Shayn Skelly, Luke Cignetti and Joe Impavido all scored touchdowns for Shaler in the win. Darin Mizgorski passed for 173 yards and a score.
“Our line ended up playing one of the best games they had all season, which led to us being successful on offense,” Miller said.
The Titans had turned things around during the final two weeks. During a must-win regular-season finale against Fox Chapel, the Titans rallied from a six-point halftime deficit to win, 27-20. Shaler scored all of its points during the second half.
That was a victory which showed the Titans are moving forward.
“Absolutely,” Ryan said. “As we continue to move forward and teach the concepts we need them to under it makes it easier knowing what are guys are going to accomplish. It is grounds for us to be more competitive.”
Miller scored twice on the ground while Cignetti scored on a 21-yard run.
A loss would have left Shaler on the outside looking in, but the Titans regrouped and had a chance to compete with the heavyweights.
Shaler didn’t score a win, but Miller believes the Titans’ program is on the right track.
“A lot of these young guys were excited about how the season went and were excited to be in the playoffs again,” Miller said. “I’m just happy that the culture is continuing to be changed and that we keep making a name for ourselves. Hopefully that continues in the years to come.”