No. 3 Bishop Canevin takes down Cornell to reach 1st WPIAL title game since 1990

Friday, November 19, 2021 | 10:58 PM

There have been times Bishop Canevin coach Rich Johnson has gone with his gut when deciding his quarterback.

On Friday night, he made a change to freshman Kole Olszewski early in the second quarter hoping for a spark.

Olszewski provided more than just one spark. He came out on fire.

And the Crusaders rode his hot hand and their stout defense to punching a ticket to Heinz Field.

Olszewski threw for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and No. 3 Bishop Canevin earned a 24-7 win over No. 2 Cornell in the WPIAL Class A semifinals at Montour’s Thomas J. Birko Stadium.

The Crusaders (12-1) are in the WPIAL football championship for the first time since 1990 and will play No. 9 OLSH in the Class A final at 2 p.m. Friday. Cornell, which was seeking its first WPIAL championship appearance, finished the season 9-3.

Olszewski took over for Jason Cross when the Crusaders were down 7-0 in the second quarter and immediately completed 4 of 5 passes, including a 17-yard touchdown toss to Lesae Lacks to tie the score at 7-7. Then, following a punt on Cornell’s first possession of the third quarter, he connected again with Lacks on a 60-yard bomb that gave the Crusaders the lead.

“When Kole’s number was called he definitely came through,” Johnson said. “We had done that plenty of times throughout the year. That’s the good thing about having two guys that can throw the ball. When one’s not on fire we turn to the other one. There’s no animosity between them. Cross is a great safety for us on defense.”

The Crusaders’ defense came through in a huge way in the final moments of the first half. With Cornell threatening to score, the Crusaders stuffed Sincere Kimbrough on a third and goal from the 1-yard line. Then on fourth and goal, they blocked a field goal attempt as time expired to keep the score tied at 7-7 going into the break.

“That was huge for our confidence,” Johnson said. “We wanted to go in there tied. Cornell is a hell of a team. Let’s not take anything away from them. Somebody had to lose. Fortunately, it wasn’t us this week. That was a big stop. Then we played Crusader football in the second half.”

Jaiden Torres scored on a 2-yard run late in the third quarter to push the lead to 21-7, and Geno DeFrank connected on a 27-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.

Cornell’s night started well. Kimbrough found Micah Dickerson with a 9-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter that gave the Raiders a 7-0 lead. Aside from the early score and the late push before halftime where they came up empty, the Raiders couldn’t solve a Bishop Canevin defense that has allowed less than seven points per game this season.

“I’m always proud of my kids,” Raiders coach Ed Dawson said. “It wasn’t about how far we went. We did all we could do, but it wasn’t in the cards for us tonight.”

The last time Bishop Canevin made a WPIAL championship the games were still being played at Three Rivers Stadium. Johnson is excited his players will get to experience playing at Heinz Field. The Crusaders are full of young talent, but they also have five seniors — Keyshawn Harris, Willie Banks-Hicks, Eli Wilson, Torres and Ja’Shaun Butler — who have had a long road to the joy they are currently experiencing.

“Our seniors started their career 1-9 and had only one win in conference their first two years,” Johnson said. “Now, they get to go down and play at Heinz Field. It’s a great feeling for these kids, and I’m just so happy for them and the school.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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