Steel Valley grabs spot in WPIAL final by beating Mohawk

Friday, November 17, 2023 | 11:48 PM

The Steel Valley Ironmen, propelled by a monstrous performance by Donald Barksdale, defeated Mohawk, 34-21, to return to Acrisure Stadium for the second straight year.

Barksdale, the WPIAL Class 2A leader in rushing yards, made a statement, carrying for 254 yards and two scores on 26 carries.

Barksdale, who surpassed 2,000 yards on the season, did his job defensively with a 52-yard pick-6. He also threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Deshaun Johnson.

He compiled 343 all-purpose yards, outdoing his last WPIAL semifinal performance, his breakout performance against Neshannock.

Da’Ron Barksdale, who missed the game because of an injury, commented on his brother’s performance.

“I always knew he had it in him,” Barksdale said. “It was all about him showing it. Although it’s kind of weird to say as his brother, I never knew he was going to be this good. This is something crazy.”

Donald Barksdale saw the holes, hit them hard and outran everyone. He commented on his line.

“When I’m hitting holes, that’s my line,” Barksdale said. “My line is dominant. I love them boys. We have seniors on that line, so I’m doing everything for them. Just seeing those holes open up, it’s great.”

Barksdale had a 43-yard touchdown on the first drive and the interception for a score on the Mohawk possession afterwards.

After Mohawk (10-3) gained momentum making it 14-7, he broke one 77 yards for the score.

Barksdale dropped in a nearly perfect pass to Johnson on a flea flicker for 70 yards, which gave them a 28-14 lead and put an end to Mohawk’s momentum.

“No one believed me,” Barksdale said. “Maybe 2 percent of people believed I can make that pass, and I just threw it up and passed it and scored.”

After fine weather in the first half, the rain came in the second but Mohawk brought the thunder.

The Warriors were down 28-14 at halftime but went right down the field to cut it to 28-21 when Jay Wrona found Blake Logan for 30 yards.

On their next drive, Barksdale was knocked out of the game temporarily with a cramp.

This led to Quaron Pierce coming in and having the drive of his life.

Pierce powered his way inside the red zone after a 14-yard carry and an 8-yard carry.

Steel Valley (10-1) made its way to the 1-yard line.

The Warriors defense stuffed Pierce on the point of attack on fourth down, but Pierce kept his legs churning and reached the ball over the goal line on a tremendous second effort to make it 34-21, icing the game.

“In my head, I was thinking ‘don’t get injured again’ because I was injured at the beginning of the season,” Pierce said. “But down there, I had to get it in. I had to do everything in my power to get that in.”

Pierce was amazed about the fans and players hyping him up. Donald Barksdale was proud of Pierce.

“He just came back from two injuries, one last year and this year,” Barksdale said. “That was hurtful to see, but after seeing that, I love him and he’s a dog. I knew he wanted it, and he just pounded it in.”

This was Steel Valley’s third straight semifinal appearance.

With high stakes and the drive to make it to Acrisure Stadium, Steel Valley threw the first punch and came out of the gates with confidence.

The Ironmen forced a three and out on Mohawk’s first drive of the game.

On third-and-11, Barksdale exploded threw a hole and took one to the house from 43 yards. AJ Karstetter hit the extra point, giving the Ironmen an early 7-0 lead.

The Warriors mustered their first points of the game with a little more than7 minutes left in the first.

Justin Boston got through the teeth of the Steel Valley line and blocked a Carlos Scott punt in the end zone. The ball soared into the air, and Joey Nail caught and recovered the punt in the Steel Valley end zone.

This momentum shift was short-lived, however, as Barksdale broke his 77-yard touchdown run to go up 21-7.

Mohawk cut the lead when Wrona dropped back to pass and connected with Bobby Fadden. Del Shields went for a bone-jarring hit but missed an elusive Fadden. Josh Wilkins buried the extra point, and the score was 21-14.

The Warriors made it interesting with a 62-yard run from Boston that put them in Steel Valley territory.

Nevertheless, the Ironmen defense shut the door on Mohawk and their last two drives, turning them over on downs both times.

Mohawk coach Tim McCutchen said he thought that his team would be able to wear down the Ironmen.

McCutchen said he was proud of the team’s 10-win season.

“That’s a team you don’t have to talk about effort to,” McCutchen said. “Offensively and defensively, they bring it. We were confident going into half. Our heads were up (when we were) down two scores. We thought we were going to take this. We brought it within one touchdown, but we gave up a big play to take away our momentum.”

The Warriors were led by Fadden, who caught six passes for 105 yards, and Boston, who had 22 carries for 145 yards. Wrona went 9 for 25 through the air for 169 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.

Steel Valley plays Beaver Falls next week in a championship rematch.

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