Shaler Area defeats Fox Chapel, grabs 2nd consecutive playoff spot

Friday, October 25, 2019 | 11:26 PM

A stagnant, somewhat-sloppy first half led to halftime adjustments in both locker rooms, and when the dust settled, Shaler Area’s run game paved the way to a 27-20 victory Friday night against Fox Chapel.

The win — combined with Hampton’s 27-7 triumph against Mars — secured the Titans’ second consecutive playoff berth, Shaler’s first back-to-back trips since 2008-09.

Josh Miller, Luke Cignetti and Jake Miller paced the Titans (4-6, 3-4 Class 5A Northern Conference) offense to 27 second-half points, including 20 in the fourth quarter.

Fox Chapel (4-6, 3-4) scored midway through the first on a touchdown run of 8 yards by Alex Wecht for the only first-half score.

After a stop to open the third quarter, Shaler used three plays to go 65 yards for its first score and the momentum continued from there.

“I think we needed an attitude adjustment coming out for the second half,” third-year Shaler coach Jim Ryan said. “The first thing I did was pull the team into the locker room and told them everybody has to stop worrying about everything else and just focus on their jobs. Sometimes it takes time for young kids to understand the message, and they took it to heart.”

The Foxes will make the playoffs, despite the loss, for the first time since 2017. Fox Chapel will be the Class 5A wild card.

“It’s good to get back into the playoffs, but we might have too many teams in the playoffs in 5A,” Fox Chapel coach Tom Loughran said. “We’ll be confident, and we always think if we do what we need to do and execute our plan that we can win the game.”

Loughran speculated his team could be headed to Penn-Trafford as the Foxes likely will be the 16 seed.

Fox Chapel hasn’t won a postseason game since 1997.

Ryan said his team came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders, and the key was getting the run game going.

The drive was capped by a 21-yard touchdown run by Luke Cignetti. All three plays were big runs. The lead didn’t last long, though, as Fox Chapel marched down the field with a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Shane Susnak completed a touchdown pass of 10 yards to Khi’Lee Patterson to put the Foxes back in front.

The fourth quarter was all Shaler, though. Darin Mizgorski threw for his only touchdown of the night, part of a 13-of-20, 167-yard performance. The senior had the touchdown of 22 yards to Joey Impavido and threw a first-half interception.

The Titans used Josh Miller, who finished with 115 yards on 19 carries, and Jake Miller (six rushes for 68 yards) as receivers out of the backfield to ice the game. Jake Miller caught five passes for 74 yards.

Shaler recovered a squib kick after Jake Miller’s 15-yard run made it a 20-13 score.

Miller capped the next drive by scoring from 24 yards with 36 seconds remaining.

Fox Chapel added a score at the horn when Susnak threw to Warner Macklin for a 23-yard score. Susnak finished 14 of 18 for 187 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

It wasn’t a good result, and the fifth-year Foxes coach was disappointed.

“It was a good game. We certainly did enough to help them win the game, but they did enough to win, too,” Loughran said. “Give credit to them for beating us, but we also take a lot of blame in doing a lot of things that were counterproductive to our chances.”

A lot of the issues came with finishing drives and missing assignments, according to Loughran.

Shaler, which has had 24-game and 34-game losing skids in the past decade, is headed back to the playoffs and will look for its first playoff win since 2009.

“It’s a great feeling. The kids are so excited just to say, ‘we’re going to the playoffs again,’ ” Ryan said. “We’re all ecstatic, and it’s good for the future generation out there and the younger kids in that locker room to see what it’s like and how fun it is to be successful. It’s a big program boost.”

The playoff pairings will be released at 7 p.m. Monday night on the TribLIVE High School Sports Network.

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