Mt. Lebanon pulls away in 4th quarter of win over Hempfield

Friday, September 27, 2019 | 11:42 PM

Visawn Pennix had two carries for negative-18 yards halfway through the fourth quarter.

With his Mt. Lebanon (4-2, 4-1) team leading by eight points, Pennix put an exclamation point on the hard-fought Class 6A matchup against Hempfield (2-4, 1-4) with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, solidifying a 31-17 win.

“I’m proud of the young man,” coach Bob Palko said. “Some of the things he’s been frustrated with, it’s great to see. We are running the ball to keep the clock running, and 91 yards later he’s looking at me like, ‘I told you so.’ ”

Despite 48 combined points, scoring was hard to come by as both teams struggled in the first half. The score at halftime was 10-3 in favor of Mt. Lebanon, and the biggest play came late in the first quarter on a 42-yard touchdown reception by Mason Ventrone from Joey Daniels.

Hempfield couldn’t get the offense clicking in the first half. The Spartans mustered 35 total yards of offense and collected one first down over the first 24 minutes.

“We had to get our run game going,” Hempfield coach Rich Bowen said. “This is the first night we didn’t run the ball well. Nathan Roby is a great running back, and we just didn’t give him space to run the ball.”

Roby finished with 32 yards on 13 carries, along with 42 yards on three receptions.

With Roby bottled up, Hempfield turned to banged-up quarterback Blake Remaley in the second half.

“I’m proud of the way he played in that second half,” Bowen said. “Everybody is hurt nowadays, and he toughed it up in that second half.”

Remaley went into the locker room 2 for 10 for 11 yards and finished 14-29 for 231 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Mt. Lebanon didn’t have the offensive struggles Hempfield had in the first half. The Blue Devils’ issues were more mental as they were pushed back by penalties.

Mt. Lebanon gained 459 yards and did so by opening up the passing game before turning to the run in the second half, something Palko didn’t expect.

“No,” Palko said when asked if he thought Daniels would throw 28 times. “It really could’ve been a different story. We had some drops, but we are learning every day.”

Entering the game, Daniels had thrown 54 passes and completed 35. Friday, Daniels went 16 of 28 for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

The Blue Devils get ready to travel to Upper St. Clair next week. With a playoff spot nearly in hand, Palko isn’t looking ahead but rather continuing to get his team ready.

“We’re learning about each other on a daily basis,” Palko said. “We’re still finding out who we are and what we do. We are still trying to get better every day. We know what’s at stake, and we aren’t looking down the line, just going day-by-day.”

The Spartans find themselves on the outside looking in and will need some help. The schedule doesn’t get any easier as Seneca Valley comes to town next week, but Bowen is going to have his team prepared.

“We have to step it up because every game is a playoff game,” Bowen said. “Tonight, to us, was a playoff game. If we want a chance to get into the playoffs, we have to take one of these games coming up and we need to finish the season strong. I liked the way we played tonight, and I believe in these kids. Just have to find a way to win these games.”

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