“Ever since I was a freshman, it's been just always tradition (of) Dynamo football, hard running, pound and ground, hard defensive football all around,” said senior Parker Kline, who rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
Springdale (5-5, 4-2) clinched fourth place in the Eastern Conference and a WPIAL playoff berth, the program's 15th in the last 16 seasons, and also eliminated Greensburg Central Catholic from contention.
“I'm just happy I didn't screw that up when I got here,” said first-year Springdale coach Seth Napierkowski. “It's such a great place to be. You see the support we get from the community, and I just couldn't ask for a better group of kids. They just worked so hard.”
GCC had a chance to cause havoc in the Eastern Conference standings. A win by the Centurions (3-7, 2-6) could have led to a coin-toss tiebreaker between them, Springdale and Bishop Canevin to determine the conference's final two playoff teams. Instead, they ended up out of the postseason for a second consecutive season after their 13-year playoff streak ended in 2016.
Springdale's experience — 17 seniors — showed as the Dynamos ground down a young GCC defense in the second half.
“You saw their experience. They really started to wear on us,” GCC coach Aaron Smetanka said. “Just the size up front, the big bodies up there, it's tough for some of our guys to get off blocks. As the game went on, they started to wear us down.”
The combination of up-the-gut runs from fullback Scott Landis and sweeps and end-arounds by Josh Harmon and Kline and quarterback Josh Jones helped Springdale pile up 337 rushing yards. Landis rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown, Harmon added 100 and two scores and Kline 77 and two touchdowns.
The Dynamos didn't throw a pass in the second half and outscored GCC, 21-7, in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
“The line was blocking great, cutbacks were open, the backside line was blocking upfield,” said Harmon, who also returned an interception 62 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown. “There was nothing else we could ask for.”
The ground dominance helped Springdale overcome the passing work of GCC quarterback Bruce Leonard.
Leonard, starting in place of 1,000-yard passer Max Pisula, threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another score. Ben LaCarte caught 10 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, and James Rice added 61 yards and another score.
“(Leonard) did a good job of making the right reads on the field and did a good job running the ball,” Smetanka said. “He's an athlete. It was good to see.”
Springdale led 14-10 at halftime on 1-yard runs by Landis and Kline, and Harmon added a score in the third quarter. GCC cut its deficit to three on Rice's 16-yard touchdown catch.
After another Harmon touchdown run, the Springdale senior ended a GCC drive with an interception, and he set up his blocks perfectly on the way to the end zone for the touchdown that ultimately put the game away.
“Honestly, (this is) what I've been waiting for since I started playing football,” Harmon said. “I can't even explain the feeling I'm having right now. It's just great. We made the playoffs in our senior year, and now we're just going to go as far as we can.”