Steel Valley Slams Southern Columbia for Perfect 2-A State Crown
Saturday, December 10, 2016 | 3:28 PM
15 games. 15 wins. 15 mercy rules.
Steel Valley (15-0) completed one of the most dominant seasons in WPIAL and PIAA history with a 49-7 thrashing of defending PIAA 2A Champion Southern Columbia (15-1) in the PIAA 2A Championship at Hersheypark Stadium Saturday.
The win completes a season for Steel Valley in which they reached the high school football mercy rule running clock in every contest, outscoring opponents 806-121.
“I think that’s a Hall of Fame Team,” Steel Valley head coach Rod Steele said. “To go 15-0 with 15 mercy rules, I don’t know if anyone has ever done that.”
Najheir West, Steel Valley’s backup running back filling in for hobbled star DeWayne Murray, rushed 12 times for 288 yards and five touchdowns, lifting the Ironmen to the first state title in school history.
“I just didn’t have to use him all year,” Steele said of West. “That’s supposed to be my guy for next year.”
West, a junior, pulled off what surely will go down as one of the most spectacular runs in state championship history on a dazzling 60-yard scamper in which he broke eleven tackles, extending the lead to 42-7 in the third quarter.
“Six,” West said. “That’s all that was going through my mind was six points… I had to step up”
Steel Valley stole the momentum on the game’s opening kickoff, recovering a fumble. On their first offensive play, Quarterback Ryan Harper found Pitt recruit Paris Ford for a 27-yard touchdown, giving the Ironman a 7-0 lead out of the gates.
Southern Columbia, appearing in their 15th PIAA Championship in school history, would respond, tying the game with a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 24-yard touchdown pass from Stone Hollenbach to Cam Young. The touchdown was just the third allowed all season by Steel Valley’s starting defensive unit.
The Tigers would never score again, as Steel Valley ran off the next 42 points, including 22 before halftime.
West capped the opening quarter with a 53-yard run and Steel Valley would score twice more in the final 3:51 of the first half. West plunged into the endzone on a 5-yard run and Ford was able to drag multiple tacklers into the end zone on a 15-yard jaunt. That score was followed by a botched extra point that Harper threw to Murray for a two-point conversion, giving Steel Valley a 29-7 lead at half.
After the break, West would break off three more runs. Sandwiched around the 60-yard masterpiece, West hit on a 37-yard dash and another 60-yard burst down the sideline to cap the scoring a 49-0.
Murray, the WPIAL’s 6th and PIAA’s 23rd all-time leading rusher, did manage to rush eight times for 85 yards, despite being hampered by a hamstring strain suffered in the PIAA 2A Semifinals a week ago.
Ford, who transferred from Seton-LaSalle to Steel Valley in the summer, touched the ball ten times for 164 all-purpose yards and scored twice, as well as adding seven tackles defensively.
“We watched film and noticed that we were faster than them and could get off the ball faster than them.” West said. “Our line won the game.”
Harper passed 5-for-12 for 104 yards and a score and Zai’Quan Henderson led Steel Valley with a game-high eight tackles.
Offensively, the Ironmen outgained Southern Columbia 522-232, including 418-98 on the ground.
The loss, Southern Columbia’s first via mercy rule since 2010, drops the Tigers to 4-9 all-time against current WPIAL teams and ends a 31-game winning streak.
For the Tigers, Hollenbach passed 11-of-21 for 134 yards, the touchdown and an interception, becoming Southern Columbia’s all-time leading passer along the way. Hunter Thomas gained 66 yards on the ground, but Southern Columbia was held without a rushing touchdown for the first time in over six years.
Steel Valley becomes the first Mon Valley team to win a PIAA Football Championship since Clairton in 2012.
“Our community is a hard nosed, revitalized town,” Steele said. “All those people love football and to be able to bring this back home, it’s truly special.”
Score By Quarter
SV 14 – 15 – 14 – 7 = 49
SC 7 – 0 – 0 – 0 = 7
11:45 – SV – Paris Ford 27-yard pass from Ryan Harper (Alex Grace kick)
7:01 – SC – Cameron Young 24-yard pass from Stone Hollenbach (Elijah Hoffman kick)
2:17 – SV – Nejheir West 53-yard run (Grace kick)
3:51 – SV – West 5-yard run (Grace kick)
1:04 – SV – Ford 14-yard run (DeWayne Murray pass from Ryan Harper)
10:43 – SV – West 37-yard run (Grace kick)
4:03 – SV – West 60-yard run (Grace kick blocked)
11:44 – SV – West 60-yard run (Grace kick)
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