Norwin closes season with victory over Hempfield

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Friday, October 29, 2021 | 11:09 PM


Mathematically, Norwin is out of playoff contention.

The Knights didn’t want to hear that, though, in the regular-season finale. If they were going out, they wanted to go out with a bang.

Motivated to close the season with back-to-back wins — and get their fourth victory after winning three games combined the last two years — the Knights defeated Hempfield, 27-7, on Friday night at Spartan Stadium in the final Class 6A conference game for both teams.

“The feeling is amazing,” said Norwin senior quarterback Luke Levendosky, who threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score. “We had a tough stretch, but these last two games we’ve put all the little things together. We have been preaching, finish, finish, finish. My line never takes a rep off. It’s a great team win.”

Norwin (4-6, 2-5) was holding out hope it could make the playoffs if the WPIAL did not count a covid forfeit against Seneca Valley against it.

Hempfield finished the season 2-8 and 0-7. The Spartans have lost 11 straight conference games.

“We have a chance to write history,” Levendosky said of the team’s mindset. “We haven’t made the playoffs in six years.”

But instead, Norwin is eliminated from playoff contention because it didn’t have enough tiebreaker points to overtake Canon-McMillan and Baldwin, the teams it tied for fifth place.

“It’s a testament to our players and our coaches,” Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said. “At the end of the day, we control what we can do. We came out here and took care of business and had a pretty impressive win against a rival. It’s always a tight game when we play them.

“If we’re at a negative-10 points differential because we have a covid forfeit, and that keeps us out of the playoffs … that is something we can’t control,” Brozeski said. “We followed the rules. I am always going to battle for my guys.”

Brozeski’s point of contention is the WPIAL did not make it clear that a forfeit — over a no-contest — would be minus-10 Gardner Points.

“If you go back to Jan. 26 with the WPIAL, everything that’s written, not once does it say forfeits are minus-10,” Brozeski said. “We have the forfeit with Seneca Valley. Technically it’s a 1-0 forfeit loss, right? We controlled what we can control. It’s tough.”

Norwin, which lost to Hempfield last year 28-14, took a 13-7 lead into halftime.

The Knights scored on the first play from scrimmage — after recovering Hempfield’s onside kick attempt — as Levendosky delivered a 52-yard strike to Dom Barca.

Hempfield missed a field goal, and the Knights made one, with Joey Castle connecting from 36 yards for a 10-0 lead late in the opening quarter.

The Spartans responded on the next drive as Gino Caesar followed Eli Binakonsky’s 34-yard jaunt with a short touchdown to make it 10-7.

“Hats off to Norwin, they were more disciplined,” Hempfield coach Mike Brown said. “We didn’t execute like we should of. We had penalties that hurt us on both sides of the ball. We drive, we drive, we driveand we stall.”

Norwin lost a fumble, but the Spartans failed to convert the turnover into points. The Knights put together another lengthy drive, but Castle missed from 34 yards.

Castle was good again, though, when he buried a 26-yarder just before the half.

Sophomore Jackson Pons had five catches for 127 yards. Dom Barca ran for 72 yards.

“Luke is going to give you everything,” Brozeski said. “He is going to lay it all out there. That’s why you love him. I’d go to battle with him in a heartbeat.”

The Knights added to their lead in the third. After Norwin turned it over on downs, linebacker Josh Page intercepted Jake Phillips and returned it to the Hempfield 11.

Levendosky ran it in from the 11 to extend the lead to 20-7.

Hempfield then turned it over on downs, and the Knights went 65 yards in eight plays with Page scoring on a 4-yard shovel pass from Levendosky to push the advantage to 27-7.

The Spartans played with heavy hearts. An assistant coach and a player lost their fathers this week.

“We try to be a family here and it hurts to see that,” Brown said. “It took a toll. It was a long, tough week. The kids fought and played hard.”

Said Brozeski: “Coach Brown did a heck of a job. He’s to be commended for how he got those guys rallying for their last game at home with the adversity.”

Eli Binakonsky ran for 80 yards, and Gino Caesar added 61.

Hempfield played two quarterbacks in Kieran Lippman and Jake Phillips.

“The kids came out, especially the seniors,” Brown said. “It just didn’t work out. I don’t think we’re that far away. This offseason is going to be vital for us. We have to improve our depth. The kids are great here … they deserve more. I don’t think we’re just a two-win football team.”

Listen to an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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