Serra Catholic defeats Sto-Rox, headed for WPIAL finals

Friday, November 19, 2021 | 11:06 PM

Serra Catholic will be making a trip to the North Shore next week.

The sixth-seeded Eagles scored a late go-ahead touchdown and picked up a big fourth-down stop with less than a minute remaining in the game to preserve a 13-12 victory over second-seeded Sto-Rox in a WPIAL Class 2A semifinal matchup Friday night at South Fayette.

With the Vikings (12-1) facing a fourth-and-14 at the Eagles’ 45-yard line, Serra (13-1) limited quarterback Josh Jenkins to an 8-yard gain, sealing a trip to Heinz Field for next week’s 2A title game against fifth-seeded Beaver Falls.

“Defense wins championships,” Serra Catholic coach Jose Regus said. “Our defense stood out for the second straight week. We kept points off the board and did what we needed to do to win the game.”

Sto-Rox entered the game averaging more than 40 points. In their first two playoff games, the Vikings scored 61 and 62 points.

The Eagles, who shut out Laurel’s high-powered offense in the quarterfinals last week, benefited from five uncharacteristic Sto-Rox turnovers Friday.

“If we eliminate the turnovers, I think it would be a different story,” Sto-Rox coach LaRoi Johnson said. “You can’t beat anybody with that many turnovers.”

Serra Catholic held a slim 7-6 lead entering the fourth quarter before Sto-Rox eventually found the end zone.

Two possessions after Serra’s DaiQuan Chatfield picked off a pass from Jenkins in the end zone, the Vikings drove down the field on a six-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Jaymar Pearson.

Pearson finished with 18 carries for 86 yards in the loss.

The 2-point conversion failed, but the Vikings held their first lead at 12-7 with 4:41 to go. Jenkins, who completed 17 of 27 passes for 282 yards, went 4 of 5 for 50 yards passing on the drive.

Despite the late score by the Vikings, Serra never wavered.

“We just knew what we had to do,” Regus said. “We were just waiting for that break. We just needed that to get something done.”

On their ensuing possession, the Eagles reached the Sto-Rox 43-yard line following a late hit call on the Vikings. Three plays later, Serra quarterback Max Rocco connected with wide receiver Terrell Booth for a 43-yard score that put the Eagles ahead by one with less than three minutes remaining.

“Once I caught the ball, I looked down field and saw all grass,” Booth said. “I knew I had to get into the end zone and seal the game.”

Said Rocco: “We struggled a little bit, but we knew that play was coming. Once Sto-Rox took the lead, our mindset switched. We knew we had to score when it mattered most.”

On its first three drives, Serra was forced to punt twice and threw an interception to Sto-Rox’s Jaymont Green-Miller.

The Eagles, however, managed to capitalize on one of Sto-Rox’s three first-half turnovers to strike first. A Sto-Rox player made contact with the ball on a Caden Bauer punt, allowing Serra to recover it at the Vikings’ 3-yard line. One play later, Pharoh Fisher scored on a 3-yard run to put the Eagles ahead 7-0 with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.

It didn’t take long for the Vikings to respond, though, as they scored on their ensuing possession. They capped a six-play, 53-yard drive with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins to Zay Davis. The PAT was missed, allowing the Eagles to maintain a 7-6 edge in the opening minutes of the second quarter.

Sto-Rox had another chance to score after back-to-back punts in the final minute of the first half. The Vikings reached the Serra 47-yard line after eight plays before Jenkins found Drevon Miller-Ross for a 39-yard completion on fourth-and-6. Sto-Rox called a timeout with 3.2 seconds to go, but a 15-yard field-goal attempt by Adam Devine – after an offside call on Serra – never occurred as the snap was bobbled by the holder, ending the half with Serra leading by one.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty enough,” Regus said. “I’m looking at that scoreboard, and it’s beautiful.”

In picking up the win, Serra avenged a 49-38 loss at the hands of Sto-Rox in last year’s semifinal.

It wasn’t as high-scoring as the last meeting between the teams, but for Regus and the Eagles, it was a whole lot sweeter.

“From day one, these boys have given me their all,” Regus said. “It’s a great opportunity and a blessing to be here at Serra Catholic. I’m just happy the boys have bought into the program and have been able to make things happen.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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