Seneca Valley seeks ‘redemption’ in semifinal rematch with North Allegheny
By: Chris Harlan
Thursday, November 8, 2018 | 11:15 PM
Seneca Valley’s redemption tour enters another week.
The Raiders avenged their regular-season loss to Central Catholic last Friday and now seek the same against North Allegheny, another opponent that narrowly defeated them this year.
“You know what, there’s something about redemption that’s motivating,” Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle said. “I’ll be honest with you, it motivates me. I think it motivates the kids.”
Fifth-seeded Seneca Valley (8-3) faces top-seeded North Allegheny (10-0) in a WPIAL Class 6A semifinal Friday night at Newman Stadium. NA won 10-6 in Week 5.
Now more than a month later, the Raiders receive a do-over. This time the winner advances to Heinz Field.
“I’m sure they — just like we — have had opportunities to look at the things that we did well and didn’t do well,” Butschle said. “So I feel like it’s going to be a fresh slate, not a repeat of the last time.”
But rather than redemption, North Allegheny’s recent focus was on rejuvenation.
The Tigers earned a first-round bye as the top seed. This wasn’t time to kick back and relax, NA coach Art Walker said, but the team took full advantage of the open week.
“It wasn’t like we told them we’ll see you next week,” Walker said. “We practiced. We concentrated on fundamentals and situational stuff. We were still physical and practiced at as fast a pace as we could go. … I give my coaching staff credit because they were tremendous with it.”
The Week 5 matchup at North Allegheny became a physical, defensive battle with very little offense. Seneca Valley quarterback Gabe Lawson strung together a 13-play, 69-yard drive and ran for a 2-yard touchdown on the Raiders’ first possession but then they went scoreless the rest of the way.
Seneca Valley’s offense was held to negative yards after halftime.
“Their staff did a really nice job of making some adjustments and shut us down a little bit in the second half,” Butschle said. “It was a really physical game.”
North Allegheny scored twice in the second quarter. The Tigers kicked a 20-yard field goal and Joey Colella had a 1-yard touchdown run to lead 10-6 at halftime. But that was it for the offenses.
“Offensively, we have to show up a lot better than we did last time,” Walker said. “We really couldn’t get anything going right. We had a couple of big plays to get us in scoring position … but we had four turnovers. Those things can’t happen.”
North Allegheny owns the top scoring offense in WPIAL Class 6A at 37.4 points per game. Its defense allows 12.4. Seneca Valley has the classification’s best defense, allowing 9.5 on average. The Raiders offense averages 20 points.
North Allegheny is trying to reach the WPIAL finals for the first time since winning consecutive titles in 2010-12. Seneca Valley was WPIAL runner-up in 2016.
Seneca Valley overcame a 14-0 deficit to defeat Central Catholic last week. The Raiders’ Seth Winters kicked a 32-yard field goal, Jake Stebbins scored on a 21-yard pass from Lawson and Jake Mineweaser added a 12-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to win 15-14.
“We have to play tough, we have to try and control the tempo, and we have to win the turnover battle,” Butschle said. “Those are the things that have helped us win games. … Redemption is only going to carry you so far on the field.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.