Mt. Lebanon’s Evan Jones scores five times in win over Seneca Valley

Friday, November 1, 2019 | 10:49 PM

Evan Jones has done just about everything for Mt. Lebanon this season. He has run for touchdowns. He has caught touchdown passes. He even threw a touchdown pass.

In Friday night’s WPIAL Class 6A first-round playoff game, Jones did something he has never done before in his life. The senior scored five touchdowns in the Blue Devils’ 35-14 victory over Seneca Valley.

Running out of the backfield as the wildcat quarterback, Jones carried 21 times for a season-high 195 yards rushing to go with his five scores.

“I think (the wildcat is) a change of pace for the offense,” Jones said. “It’s a read option, and I read the ends every time before running.”

Jones got things started for Mt. Lebanon on the game’s first possession, capping a 65-yard drive with a 14-yard run. Jones, who had a 37-yard run right before the touchdown, also had a big catch on the drive, hauling in a 7-yard pass from Joey Daniels on third down.

Seneca Valley tied the game early in the second quarter. Senior quarterback Gabe Lawson scored on 1-yard run after the Raiders’ drive was kept alive by a pass interference call on fourth-and-7.

Tied at the half, the Raiders took a 14-7 lead. A bad snap went over the head of punter Nick Estabrook and gave Seneca Valley the ball at the Blue Devils’ 18-yard line. Matt Stanger then scored from 5 yards out with 7 minutes, 56 seconds left in the third quarter.

“I don’t think so,” Jones said when asked if there was any panic on the sidelines when Seneca Valley took the lead. “We were down 14-0 in the first game (a 26-20 Mt. Lebanon regular season win), so we knew what to do and came out firing.”

That would be the last score of the night for Seneca Valley.

The next four touchdowns for Mt. Lebanon came in quick fashion.

Mt. Lebanon forced the Raiders to punt from their own end zone. A holding call gave the Blue Devils the ball at the Seneca Valley 30-yard line. Three plays later, Jones scored from 9 yards out to tie the score, 14-14.

Brandon Weaver fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Matt Wertz recovered for Mt. Lebanon. Jones finished that drive with a 28-yard run and the Blue Devils led, 21-14. The two scores came within 55 seconds of each other.

In the fourth quarter, Mt. Lebanon struck twice quickly once again.

First, Jones scored on a 14-yard run to put Mt. Lebanon up, 28-14. The big play on the drive came from Daniels. The sophomore who hadn’t taken a snap in the second half came off the bench after a timeout and hit Sam LaSota with a 10-yard pass on fourth-and-5.

Then, Eli Heidenreich picked off a Lawson pass and returned the ball to the Seneca Valley 10-yard line. It only took Jones one play this time, scoring his fifth touchdown on a 10-yard run. The last two scores for Mt. Lebanon took only 25 seconds.

Mt. Lebanon head coach Bob Palko, who won eight WPIAL titles at West Allegheny, picked up his first playoff victory as a Blue Devil, and thinks the reason was simple.

“Trust,” Palko said. “Trust the process. We were able to eliminate distractions during the week and prepare as best we could.”

Jones, who plays outside linebacker, also helped a Mt. Lebanon defense that intercepted two passes, had a pair of sacks and held the Raiders to 62 yards rushing.

“Our team really rallied together tonight,” Jones said. “I think we came together as a unit.”

Seneca Valley ends the season at 4-7.

No. 4 Mt. Lebanon (7-4) moves onto the semifinals next week with a rematch against top-seeded Central Catholic. Jones thinks the Mt. Lebanon defense will be a key against the Vikings.

“We need to gameplan and come up with a good formula to beat their run-heavy offense,” he said.

Palko knows next week’s semifinal will be a tough game.

“We have quite a challenge ahead of us,” he said. “It will be a monumental task.”

Palko also thinks his team will be up for the challenge.

“As the season has gone on, they’re finally starting to get it,” he said. “I don’t know if that will help us against Central Catholic, but we’ll prepare and do the best we can.”

The Vikings defeated the Blue Devils a week ago 45-7 in the season finale.

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