Sto-Rox pulls away in second half, ends run for West Greene, Jackson

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Friday, November 8, 2019 | 10:42 PM


Behind a strong defensive performance and a streaky-but-sharp-enough offense spearheaded by quarterback Eric Wilson, No. 3 Sto-Rox knocked off No. West Greene, 24-7, on Friday night at Trinity’s Hiller Field in the WPIAL Class A semifinals to punch its first ticket to its classification’s championship game since 2012.

The Vikings (11-1) limited Pioneers (10-2) running back Ben Jackson to 150 yards rushing on 29 carries — more than 120 yards under his season average — and forced five turnovers to lock down the win. Now, the Big Seven Conference co-champs have a trip to Heinz Field to look forward to. They will face No 1. Clairton, a winner over Cornell, in the title game.

“It’s amazing. I’m just so proud of my guys battling hard,” Vikings coach LaRoi Johnson said. “We talked about doing this, accomplishing our dreams and not letting anybody stop us from getting there.

“We battled through all season, just believed in each other and stuck together. I’m so incredibly proud for our high school, for our staff, everybody. I’m just proud for our whole community.”

After the opening kickoff, Sto-Rox needed only four plays to go 80 yards for a touchdown. Wilson capped drive with a 27-yard strike to wide receiver Amahd Pack.

West Greene answered quickly as Ben Jackson powered it in on a 17-yard scoring run to cap 10-play 67-yard drive in the first quarter.

After a scoreless second quarter, Sto-Rox got back on the board in the third on a Diontae Givens 5-yard touchdown run.

In the fourth quarter, the Vikings finished with authority, forcing four turnovers and scoring twice: on a Givens 12-yard run and a 34-yard pass hookup from Wilson to Pack.

“We’ve been doing that all year,” Johnson said. “We find a way to make turnovers. The defense has always found a way to make plays. That’s just been our M.O. all year — just creating and causing havoc, playing downhill and playing

nasty football.

“That’s what our defense tries to instill every game.”

Wilson completed 19 of 32 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. In the third quarter, the Vikings senior quarterback passed Pine-Richland’s Ben DiNucci (7,619 yards) for sixth place on the WPIAL career passing yards list. Wilson sits at 7,743 yards for his career.

Pack had six catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Givens had 20 yards and two scores on four carries.

For the Pioneers, Jackson set a historic mark as well. The senior running back solidified his place in the record books as the all-time single-season WPIAL rushing record-holder, eclipsing the previous mark of 2,949 yards set by Armstrong’s Zane Dudek in 2016.

Jackson moved passed Dudek on a 7-yard carry with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the second quarter. He finished the season with 3,066 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns — one short of Tyler Boyd’s (Clairton, 2012) WPIAL record of 51.

The Pioneers couldn’t give their star running back another opportunity to extend his lead in the record books as the fourth-quarter turnovers eventually spelled their doom. Still, it was a memorable season as West Greene was able to notch its first playoff win since 1993 with their 36-0 defeat of Greensburg Central Catholic in the quarterfinals last week.

“I’m just proud of them,” Pioneers coach Brian Hanson said. “People thought we were going to come in here and get mercy ruled tonight. We knew that we weren’t going to get mercy ruled. We knew we could play with these guys. If we have X-amount of good players, maybe they have one more.

“For us to match up with them, it’s kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul sometimes. They’re a really good team, but with our season, we did a lot of really good things. We did a lot of things that haven’t been done in school history — individual and team accomplishments. I’m just proud of this team and these seniors.”

West Greene’s Kolin Walker added with 39 yards on 12 carries.

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