Trib HSSN football team of the week for 2023 Week 11

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Sunday, November 12, 2023 | 7:19 PM


Over the last three years, the Beaver Falls football team has been a No. 1, No. 5 and No. 2 seed in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs, reaching the district semifinals and eventually the title game every season this decade.

This year, the Fightin’ Tigers finished in fourth place in the Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference and were awarded the No. 10 seed.

Two wins later, Beaver Falls is back in the semifinals and one win from returning to the championship game for a fourth straight year.

“It’s different,” Beaver Falls coach Nick Nardone said. “The last few years, we’ve been fortunate to be on top and get some byes, but this team apparently decided to take a different route this year. It’s not really easy on me or the rest of the coaching staff, but the fact that we’re back in the semifinals, we’re just blessed to have the team we have.”

Beaver Falls had a chance to bring a three-game winning streak into the postseason, but lost its season finale by 20 points at Western Beaver.

“We had a conversation on the bus ride home,” Nardone said. “We told them that at the end of the day, that game meant absolutely nothing. When we saw where we were when the brackets came out, we knew we had an opportunity.”

The Tigers won 20-7 at Keystone Oaks in the opening round.

Then Beaver Falls headed north to play at MAC champion Neshannock in the quarterfinals Friday. The Lancers beat the Tigers in the regular season by one point in overtime.

Neshannock led 7-0 in the third quarter before Beaver Falls turned to special teams to set up its first touchdown and then scored a second and game-winning TD.

“We had two blocked punts,” Nardone said. “Before our first touchdown, they had the ball at their own 4, and we had such a good rush that their kid didn’t even try to kick it, he actually threw it to a lineman. We took the ball at the 2 and that’s how we scored our first touchdown.

“Then the second touchdown, we block another kick and scored in the end zone with just over two minutes left and no timeouts. It was unbelievable.”

The punt rush set up a Da’talian Beauford short scoring run, and the block and touchdown recovery by Michael Blackshear for Beaver Falls opened up Nardone’s eyes for the future.

“I’ll be the first to admit that throughout my years of coaching, I had not taken special teams as serious as I probably should,” Nardone said. “But after seeing what happened Friday night, I have a whole new respect for it.”

The Tigers have allowed only 20 points this postseason. Nardone believes experience has been the key to the standout performance by his defense.

“We have a senior-laden defense this year,” he said. “These guys have been playing, some of them since they were freshmen. All year long, they’ve been locked in. We’re at the point where we have 11 guys on the field who have had significant experience and significant playoff experience. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

Beaver Falls (7-5) will make another trip to Dormont Stadium where they beat Keystone Oaks two weeks ago as they face third-seeded Washington (11-1) for a spot in the district 2A finals.

“They have a lot of skill players,” Nardone said of Washington. “They have kids that can run the ball between the tackles and outside the tackles. They have receivers and a quarterback that can make plays. Up front, they are solid too. I think it will be a heck of a battle Friday night.

“Our kids’ minds are in the right place, and we’re really excited about where our team is right now.”

WPIAL Week 11 Honorable Mentions

Pine-Richland Rams

Defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A champion Pine-Richland had its hopes of a repeat on life support midway through the fourth quarter, trailing No. 2-seeded Penn Hills by nine points. A field goal with just over three minutes remaining cut the Indians’ lead to six points. Following a three-and-out, the Rams drove down and scored on a 4-yard run by freshman quarterback Aaron Strader with 2 seconds left, then added a scoop and score on the final play of the game to win a thriller, 16-9.

East Allegheny Wildcats

In 1992, East Allegheny won the WPIAL Class 2A championship by beating Riverside in the district finals. Thirty-one years later, the Wildcats are back in the WPIAL final four. Trailing 21-20 with time running down in the fourth quarter, EA senior quarterback Michael Cahill connected with senior Amir Rollins on a 9-yard touchdown pass to help the Wildcats beat South Park, 28-21, avenging a Week Zero loss. Cahill completed 16 of 18 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns.

Mohawk Warriors

It had been a week of distractions for the Mohawk football team after accusations were made involving the Warriors’ first-round victory over Burrell. However, at game time, the team was laser focused and needed to be in a hard-fought, 17-12 victory over Imani Christian in a WPIAL 2A quarterfinal. Mohawk senior quarterback Jay Wrona connected on 10 of 22 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown of 34 yards to Dante Retort, helping the Warriors reach the semifinals for the first time.

2023 HSSN Teams of the Week

Week 10 – Deer Lakes Lancers

Week 9 – South Side Rams

Week 8 – Central Valley Warriors

Week 7 – Mars Fightin’ Planets

Week 6 – Pine-Richland Rams

Week 5 – Moon Tigers

Week 4 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars

Week 3 – Knoch Knights

Week 2 – Waynesburg Central Raiders

Week 1 – Aliquippa Quips

Week Zero – Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils

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