No. 5 McKeesport overcomes 12 fumbles to beat No. 4 Armstrong in WPIAL quarterfinals

Friday, November 11, 2022 | 10:58 PM

Usually, 12 fumbles isn’t the recipe for a victory.

But McKeesport had built a big lead in the heavy rainfall Friday night before the fumble-itis set in.

The No. 5 Tigers scored on four straight possessions in the first half and rolled to a 41-21 victory over No. 4 Armstrong in a WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal game at Armstrong’s NexTier Complex.

Jahmil Perryman scored three times after fumbling snaps, added another on a keeper and rushed for 246 yards as the Tigers (11-1) move to the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals next Friday against No. 1 Aliquippa.

“It was a great game,” Perryman said. “That was a physical team and they kept coming at us. The weather played its part, but you’ve got to control what you can control.”

Perryman added two interceptions to his night.

“We were doing very well, then the ball got so, so wet,” McKeesport coach Matt Miller said. “The quarterback’s got small hands like me. He kept fumbling, but he made things happen.”

Perryman had 172 rushing yards in the first half and teammate Bobbie Boyd had 97 on the ground.

Greater Allegheny Conference champion Armstrong finished at 10-2. The only two losses were to the semifinalists — McKeesport and Aliquippa.

The result also brought down the curtain on the great career of River Hawks quarterback Cadin Olsen.

The reigning Willie Thrower Award winner passed for 174 yards and three touchdowns, all to junior Isaiah Brown.

Olsen, who has committed to Penn, finished with 7,781 career yards and 3,172 on the season. He lands in the No. 7 spot among all time WPIAL passers.

Frank Fabian, the only head coach in Armstrong’s eight-year history, spent some time with his senior players on the field after the game.

“I thanked them,” Fabian said. “Four years ago we were a 1-8 football team; here we are 10-2. Those guys laid a foundation. They’re going to leave a strong imprint on this program.”

McKeesport used it’s classic option offense, countering the constantly-heavy rainfall. The Tigers had the ball first and drove to the River Hawks 8. But a touchdown run by Aemond Knight was called back due to a penalty and the Tigers were stopped by Jaxson Crissman and Nick McNeeley.

Armstrong took a 7-0 lead when Olsen hit Brown on a 35-yard fly pattern.

McKeesport, however, scored the next four times it had the ball. Larry Gibson scored on a 6-yard run to get the scoring underway. Perrryman bobbled a snap at the River Hawks 21, but by the time he picked up the ball, the blocking had evolved.

Perryman scored on a 1-yard keeper and again from 20 yards out on another bobble as the Tigers took a 28-7 lead with 9 minutes, 11 seconds left in the half.

“Our defense did a great job,” Miller said. “Their quarterback is outstanding and they just couldn’t get started. That’s a big thing and weather played a role in that, too. We all played in the same weather, and we were able to find a way.”

The Tigers’ defensive front of Keith Spell, Tyrus Bennett, Ryan Burtner and Dimitri Brooks didn’t let Armstrong get into any kind of rhythm.

“They have a great defense,” Fabian said. “They’re fast and those two safeties are as good as it gets. It wasn’t the greatest of conditions, but credit to their front, they really stalemated us.”

Dozick Zablocki recovered two Tigers fumbles, the second setting up a 6-yard toss from Olsen to Brown to cut the McKeesport lead to 28-14 at the half.

Bobbie Boyd returned a punt 55 yards and Perryman had a final escape on a dropped snap for 31 yards.

Brown’s pass reception from Olsen concluded the scoring. He finished with 107 receiving yards.

Perryman had a net of 246 yards for 1,421 on the season; Boyd had a net of 110 yards on the ground.

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