Riverside’s postseason run continues with victory over McGuffey

Friday, November 8, 2019 | 10:22 PM

While Riverside’s first round upset of No. 3 Burgettstown surprised a lot of WPIAL football fans, it wasn’t a surprise to the Panthers.

“Our league is very tough. There were six teams that could’ve been in the playoffs,” Riverside coach Ron Sciarro said. “We lost our first two, ran off six straight, then lost to New Brighton in our final game. But our kids always believed in themselves. So, we weren’t surprised.”

So, when the No. 14 Panthers trounced sixth-seeded McGuffey, 41-27, on Friday night in their WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinal at Montour the Panthers exuded the same type of confidence they’ve had all year.

“Everyone doubted us all year, no one gave us a shot and everyone was taking us lightly,” Riverside quarterback Ben Hughes said. “They gave us a 14 seed, and we were mad about that. We knew we were better than a 14, and we showed that the past two weeks.”

From the first whistle, the Panthers (8-3) controlled the pace of play. Hughes and his dual-threat offense took whatever the Highlanders (9-3) gave them. Hunter Nulph carried the ball five times on the first drive, and Hughes punched it in from 2 yards out.

McGuffey answered with a 71-yard pitch-and-catch touchdown pass from Marshall Whipkey to CJ Cole almost immediately, but the Panthers blocked the point-after attempt to keep a one-point lead at 7-6.

So, the offense went right back to work.

Nulph carried the ball three straight times, Hughes mixed in a pass to Nate Sciarro for 8 yards. Then, they tacked on 17 more yards via the ground game before Hughes hit Sciarro for the second time of the drive on a 24-yard touchdown pass.

“We’ve been running the same stuff all year; if they take away the pass, then we’ll run it,” coach Sciarro said. “When you don’t do that, then we’ll throw it and we’re pretty good at it, so we’ll take what you give us.”

After their first defensive stop of the night, the Panthers marched 78 yards on seven plays before Hughes punched it in from 7 yards out for his second score of the night, putting Riverside ahead 20-6.

Riverside’s next defensive drive extended the lead even further when Sciarro picked off Whipkey and took it 70 yards for his second touchdown, giving the Panthers a comfortable three-score lead.

“I saw it and I saw I had a lot of open space,” Nate Sciarro said about the interception. “I also saw the quarterback and saw I had a blocker on the back side. So, I just made one move, cut back and it was all green from there.”

After the game, Ron Sciarro said heading into halftime with a comfortable lead was key because he knew McGuffey was a second-half team and a lead would be crucial.

Although the Highlanders never really threatened in the second half, they did outscore Riverside, 14-7, as Marshall Whipkey and Jared Johnson both found the end zone in the fourth quarter. But, it was just a little too late.

“They did a good job in the second half,” McGuffey coach Ed Dalton said. “The kids took things on. I feel like we were just running around some things in the first half.”

Riverside’s postseason run will continue next week against No. 2 Avonworth in the WPIAL semifinals at a site to be determined. The Antelopes beat No. 10 New Brighton, 38-13, on Friday.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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