Plenty of highlights for Kiski Area football despite challenging 2nd half

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Monday, November 29, 2021 | 10:54 AM


The going got tougher as the season rolled on for the Kiski Area football team this year.

The Cavaliers started out 5-0 for the first time since 2002. But the second half was a challenge for Kiski Area as a couple of narrow conference losses and some injuries took their toll on the team’s hopes of getting back to the WPIAL playoffs.

The team finished 6-4 overall, 1-4 in the tough Northeast Conference, where the Cavaliers lost a 14-10 decision to North Hills, saw Fox Chapel score two touchdowns in the final six minutes to break open a close game and lost another contest late in the going against Pine-Richland.

Coach Sam Albert said the team was about four plays away from being 9-0 after the Pine-Richland loss.

Upon further reflection, Albert lauded his team’s overall effort.

“I’m proud that the kids had done something that hasn’t been done in 19 years. They never quit,” he said. “You see two of the teams from our conference, Pine-Richland and Penn Hills, are still playing (in the WPIAL semifinals).”

Optimism reigned in Cavaliers Country leading up to the season.

“I said at the beginning, the only thing that could stop us is injuries,” Albert said.

And it was injuries that ultimately played a role in Kiski Area coming up short. Key players such as Matt Hilty and Calvin Heinle were hurt, and running back Brock Wilkins also missed time.

One pleasant surprise was the emergence of running back C.J. Hepler, the team and conference rushing leader with 865 yards. He hadn’t played football since eighth grade but decided to give the sport a final try.

Albert, the only coach in history to lead five schools to the WPIAL playoffs, has seen his share of great talent over the years.

One of the more talented players is lineman Brandon Lawhorn Moore, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman.

“I’ve been very blessed to have high school All-Americans over the years, and Brandon has a great future in front of him,” Albert said. “He’s such a great kid. You ask around, and everybody at Kiski Area loves ‘Beef.’ ”

Lawhorn Moore, who picked up his nickname after bringing beef jerky into school in sixth grade, recently declared for Miami (Ohio) in the Mid-American Conference.

Albert also was happy with the crowds that followed the team this season and the attitude and maturity of the players.

Said Albert: “They policed each other. I never had to yell at them. They bought into what we were doing and they cared and they held each other accountable.”

Also having a good season was Brayden Dunmire, who led the defense with more than 100 tackles. Quarterback Logan Johnson was a dual threat with 1,004 passing yards on 70 completions and 444 rushing yards.

Wilkins carried the ball 105 times for 459 yards. Heinle had 24 pass receptions and Hilty had 20

Albert and his staff now await the new WPIAL realignment, set to be released in December. The Cavaliers will lose seven starters on both offense and defense.

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