Unbeaten Elizabeth Forward hangs on, beats South Allegheny in double OT

Friday, October 9, 2020 | 11:29 PM

Over the course of a season, there are games that test a team like no other. Injuries, a tough opponent and a star running back can give that kind of challenge to any team with championship aspirations.

Elizabeth Forward got all of that and then some from South Allegheny on Friday night. It took four quarters and two overtimes before the Warriors sent the Gladiators home with a 20-14 loss. It is the third single-digit loss for South Allegheny (2-3, 2-3) this season.

Chase Whatton caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime, and the Elizabeth Forward defense stopped Antonio Epps at the 1-yard line on fourth down to secure the win.

EF (4-0, 3-0) did it while losing quarterback Evan Lewis in the second quarter. He was on crutches after the game. Warriors coach Mike Collodi would not speculate on the severity of his injury

“We’ll find out. (Lewis) has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. So right now, I really don’t know,” Collodi said. “Obviously, when you lose a four-year starter at any position, everyone else around him has to step up. Not just put the load on whoever is starting at quarterback.”

Freshman Vernon Settles, who starts at receiver and cornerback for EF, replaced Lewis. Despite a couple of issues, Settles did well, according to Collodi.

“(Settles) has seen big-time action already,” Collodi said. “He made some great plays tonight. He actually threw the touchdown pass to win the game.”

The winning touchdown occurred after Settles aided in getting South Allegheny back into the game. Early in the fourth quarter with EF up 14-0, Settles was intercepted by Antonio Epps, who returned it to the EF 26 yard line.

A roughing-the-passer penalty gave SA a first down after a failed fourth-and-14. Three plays later, Ethan Kirkwood made a great catch along the sideline in the end zone from Jett Jones. The extra point by Gavin Cleary was good, making it 14-7 with 11 minutes, 38 seconds to play.

On Elizabeth Forward’s next possession, Settles was pressured and threw a lofted pass downfield. Jones made a great one-handed catch for another interception.

On the next play, Gladiators quarterback Eric Wehrer hit Jones on a short hitch pattern to the right. Jones lateraled the ball to Epps, who was at full speed heading up field. Epps broke a couple of tackles near midfield and was gone. The play totaled 61 yards and tied the score at 14 with 6:20 left in regulation.

“I told my team before that I don’t care what the score is at halftime, we need to come out in the second half ready,” South Allegheny coach Frank Cortazzo III said. “All we talked about all week was effort is what it was going to take. (Elizabeth Forward) is a good team.”

EF looked like it was going to wrap up the game in regulation, but Nico Mrvos fumbled with 2:17 to go and South Allegheny took over. It was one of many stops by a game Gladiator defense.

“South Allegheny is a very, very good team,” Collodi said. “We knew it was going to be a hard fought game. They’re well coached. They are physical, and they play hard. I knew it was going to be a battle.”

After the Gladiators were stopped on their first overtime possession, the Warriors looked primed to win. But Andrew Smith’s 19-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright, sending the game to the second overtime.

“The breaks didn’t go our way. We battled, we stuck around and we hung in,” Cortazzo said. “We get back to business tomorrow morning. It’s our mentality right now. We need to take care of what we can.”

DeVontay Brownfield scored EF’s first touchdown in the first quarter on a six yard run. Lewis hit Zachary Boyd for a 20 yard score in the second quarter.

It does not get any easier for Elizabeth Forward as they are at Mount Pleasant next week and South Allegheny hosts South Park.

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