Trib HSSN Football Player of the Week for Dec. 6, 2021
Monday, December 6, 2021 | 7:10 PM
Most teams at all levels of football prefer to defer receiving the football until the second half when they win the coin toss.
That has been a standard practice for the Mt. Lebanon football season this year — until Saturday.
“Normally we defer, but we knew we wanted to get rolling,” coach Bob Palko said.
The Blue Devils won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff in their PIAA 6A semifinal against State College.
Two plays later, Mt. Lebanon took the lead on a Joey Daniels to Eli Heidenrich 68-yard scoring pass and never looked back in a dominating 49-28 victory over District 6 champion State College.
“We wanted to start fast and make sure they knew we were going to set the tone early and put points up,” Daniels said. “Being a quarterback, I love getting the ball first. I love starting fast. I feel like if we get the ball and we score, we’re set up pretty well because our defense will make plays.”
Points came early and often for the WPIAL 6A champions as they scored 21 in each of the first two quarters, building a 42-14 lead by halftime.
Daniels had five touchdown passes in the first half alone. He finished 12 of 15 passing for 292 yards and six touchdowns tosses. Fellow senior Eli Heidenreich was his favorite target. He had nine receptions for 278 yards and five touchdowns.
“I did my job,” Daniels said. “A win is a win regardless of whether I get one touchdown or six. I’m just happy with a win and another opportunity to go play.”
Palko said his quarterback’s work ethic is what makes his stand out among others.
“We’re so worried about 5-foot-9 or whatever he is, but tip your hat to him,” Palko said. “He’s that leader that watches as much film as the coaches do. You feel good for a kid like that.”
Daniels wanted to tip his hat to his offensive linemen, who gave him plenty of time to rack up the yards and the touchdowns.
“I think I was on the ground only one time today, which is a great feeling as a quarterback,” he said.
The victory keeps the Mt. Lebanon season of perfection going as the Blue Devils improved to 14-0 and are one win from adding PIAA gold to their WPIAL championship.
“It’s indescribable,” Daniels said. “This is the first time this school has even touched Hershey. But at the end of the day, through all that excitement and all of the joy of getting there, we really need make our time there worthwhile and proved we can cap it off.”
Mt. Lebanon will square off against defending PIAA 6A champion St. Joe’s Prep on Saturday at 6 p.m.
WPIAL Week 14 honorable mention
Cade Yacamelli – Penn-Trafford
Penn-Trafford fell behind Exeter Township, 7-3, in the first quarter in the 5A final four game on Friday, much like the Warriors fell behind Moon early in the previous week at Heinz Field.
However, like they did in the WPIAL finals, the Warriors turned toward their senior leaders who once again responded in a big way.
Yacamelli ended up with 139 yards rushing and scored four touchdowns on three runs and a scoring reception as Penn-Trafford scored 46 unanswered points in a 49-14 triumph over Exeter Township for the program’s first PIAA playoff victory.
Cyair Clark – Aliquippa
Aliquippa has had so many underclassmen shining bright in their golden season, it’s easy to forget they have some special seniors as well. One of them came up big on defense and special teams in Friday’s PIAA semifinal victory over Jersey Shore.
Clark returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, then supplied the exclamation point with a 25-yard interception return as the Quips earned an eighth trip to the PIAA finals with a 41-16 victory over Jersey Shore.
Landon Alexander – Central Valley
The great ones always rise to the occasion in the biggest games. That has been the case again for Central Valley’s Alexander the Great.
The senior running back made it four straight postseason games with over 200 yards rushing as he ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns, including a game clinching 98-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter, to secure a third straight trip to Hershey for the Warriors.
Also in the 35-21 win over Martinsburg Central on Friday, Alexander went over the 2,000-yard plateau for the season.
Terrell Booth – Serra Catholic
Make it back-to-back weeks this Serra senior has led the defense as these Eagles continue to be ballhawks.
A week after forcing nine turnovers in a win over Beaver Falls at Heinz Field, Serra Catholic forced three lost fumbles and three more interceptions in the state semifinals.
Booth was second on the team in tackles Friday with 12 while for the second week in a row, he registered an interception and a fumble recovery. Plus, he scored on a 9-yard touchdown run as Serra Catholic stunned Farrell, 27-18.
2021 HSSN Players of the Week
Week 13 – Cade Yacemelli, Penn-Trafford
Week 12 – Tiqwai Hayes, Aliquippa
Week 11 – Josh Jenkins, Sto-Rox
Week 10 – Chris Hood, New Castle
Week 9 – Cadin Olsen, Armstrong
Week 8 – Bobby Boyd, McKeesport
Week 7 – Brad Birch, Gateway
Week 6 – Alex Tecza, Mt. Lebanon
Week 5 – Nijhay Burt, Steel Valley
Week 4 – Devin Whitlock, Belle Vernon
Week 3 – Trenton Carter, Carmichaels
Week 2 – Abraham Ibrahim, Chartiers Valley
Week 1 – Graham Hancox, Seneca Valley
Week Zero – Carson Davidson, Blackhawk
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