Springdale aims for revenge against No. 5 Rochester in WPIAL quarterfinals
Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | 4:51 PM
All four matchups were playoff games, and the teams clashed just last year in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class A tournament. Rochester topped Springdale, 34-17, before falling to Jeannette in the semifinals.
The No. 13 Dynamos (7-4) hope to turn the tables Friday as they face the No. 5 Rams (8-2) again in the postseason. The quarterfinal matchup at Freedom High School will kick off at 7 p.m.
“We both have a lot of guys back from last year, and they are running the same stuff they’ve been running for 25 years or more,” Springdale coach Seth Napierkowski said.
“There is a lot of familiarity there. You watch film, and it’s kind of like Groundhog Day. I don’t know if that helps or hurts us. We will see on Friday.”
Springdale’s lone win in the previous four playoff games with Rochester came in 2003 as the Dynamos topped the Rams, 24-23, in triple overtime of a WPIAL Class A semifinal at Highlands.
Springdale went on to capture the WPIAL title with a 30-13 win over Sto-Rox at Heinz Field.
Napierkowski said he hopes his players can build on the strong effort from last Friday against No. 4 West Greene. The Dynamos made the nearly 80-mile trip to Greene County and produced one of their most complete victories of the season, 28-0 over the Pioneers.
“The guys had a great week of practice, and they executed the defensive game plan really well,” he said.
“Being able to stop their key plays they like to run early in the game really set the tone and gave us a lot of confidence. We made them throw a little bit more than they probably wanted to. Us being able to establish the run early on also was a recipe for success.”
“That win last week really kept our momentum going, and we can’t wait to get to Friday,” senior tailback and defensive back Logan Dexter said.
“Losing last year to Rochester is big for our momentum, too. This is a revenge game, almost. We don’t want to lose to them two years in a row.”
Legend Ausk threw his 12th touchdown of the season, an 8-yard toss to John Utiss in the third quarter to extend Springdale’s lead to 21-0.
Dexter got the scoring started with a 3-yard run in the first quarter, and Chris Savko added to the victory with an 85-yard interception return and a 3-yard run. Savko finished with two interceptions as part of Springdale’s defensive dominance.
Dexter’s rushing score was his team-leading 11th of the season.
Rochester’s rich football history features eight WPIAL championships, including seven from 1991 to 2004.
The Rams, under the tutelage of Gene Matsook, in his 22nd year, again are searching for WPIAL gold.
Rochester, a 2018 WPIAL finalist, is just two seasons removed from 2019’s 3-7 season which featured a number of freshmen and sophomores gaining experience while going through growing pains.
The experience is there this season as the Rams head in to Friday’s quarterfinal winners of five of their past six games.
“They have a little bit of everything defensively,” Napierkowski said. “They have really good athletes who make plays at the point of attack and can really disrupt what you want to do on offense. We’re going to have our hands full, but I think our guys will be up for the challenge.”
Last week, Rochester led Mapletown, 29-0, at halftime and added a score in the third quarter as the running combination of senior quarterback J.D. Azulay and senior running back Sal Laure paced the attack.
Each rushed for two touchdowns as the Rams totaled 344 yards on the ground to just 53 through the air. Laurie led the way with 12 carries for 156 yards.
Springdale knows all about what Rochester can do in the running game. In last year’s playoff matchup, the Rams ran 69 plays, and all but one of them were on the ground.
“They just don’t make mistakes,” Napierkowski said. “You rarely see them get penalized. They don’t move backwards too often. They are very happy with getting four yards a pop and moving the ball methodically. They are going to have some plays work for them. We just can’t get too emotional. We need to keep a level head and stay focused on our assignments.”
Azulay was just 2 for 2 passing for the 53 yards against Mapletown on Friday, and both completions went to 6-foot-2 junior Jerome Mullins.
“When they are running well, it opens up their play-action pass game,” Napierkowski said. “We always have to have our secondary on their toes. If we can slow their run game down early on and make them more predictable when they pass the ball, I think that will really help us.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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