Unbeaten State College ousts North Allegheny from PIAA playoffs

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Friday, November 25, 2022 | 11:05 PM


STATE COLLEGE — For an instant, it appeared Logan Kushner had Khiryn Boyd for the touchdown that would have gotten North Allegheny, trying to rally from a 21-point deficit, back to within a score.

State College’s Cooper Brushwood, though, not only closed on the play, but he managed to track down his deflection for his second interception of the game and one of four by the Little Lions in their 28-7 victory over the WPIAL champion Tigers Friday night in the PIAA Class 6A football quarterfinals at a blustery Memorial Field.

“Probably the worst feeling is that we knew we were there. We were so close the whole entire game,” North Allegheny senior captain Andrew Gavlik said. “We had this all game-planned up. We just couldn’t finish.”

Down 21-0 midway through the second quarter and 14 points to start the second half, North Allegheny shut down the State College rushing attack that gave it so many problems over the first 24 minutes and had the ball inside the Lions 40 three times in the third quarter — once on Tyree Alualu’s blocked punt.

State College, however, held the Tigers on downs twice and finally on Brushwood’s interception. One of the fourth-down stops was Michael Gaul’s tackle of Gavlik on a screen just short of the sticks at the State 31.

“I’m proud of our kids and I thought our coaches made great adjustments at halftime,” Tigers coach Art Walker Jr. said. “We had opportunities in the second half and let a couple slip through our fingers. We had some momentum changes, but we left some plays out there.”

Kushner, whose 3-yard run late in the first half accounted for North Allegheny’s lone touchdown, finished with 181 yards passing. State College countered by sending both quarterback Finn Furmanek (130 yards) and freshman D’antae Sheffey (106) over the century mark on the ground — Furmanek scored a pair of touchdowns for the Little Lions.

“They were good up front,” NA senior linebacker Kevin O’Donnell said. “(This season) was a great experience. I’m sad it’s over, but these will always be my brothers. I’m happy with that. We came back multiple games as a team, as a family).”

Picked fourth in their conference to start the year, the Tigers won the program’s first WPIAL title in 10 years and finished 11-2.

State College ran for 194 yards — 100 by Furmanek and 93 by Sheffey — to take a 21-7 lead into the half, and it might have been more if not for Boyd’s toe-tap interception at the North Allegheny 16 to thwart a Little Lions threat at the end of the second quarter.

State College got on the board at the 5:49 mark of the opening quarter, taking advantage of outstanding field position after an exchange of punts. On the first play after the Little Lions took possession at the NA 27, backup quarterback Owen Yerka hit Gaul for the first points of the contest.

The Tigers had a chance to even it up on their next possession, quickly getting upfield on Boyd’s sensational 41-yard catch. The drive stalled, though, and Nick Van Winkle’s 36-yard field goal into a gusty wind was short and to the left.

The Little Lions (13-0) then went up three scores on Furmanek’s two second-quarter touchdown runs before North Allegheny got into the end zone with 2:13 left in the half on Kushner’s 3-yard run on fourth-and-2. Kushner completed five passes for 52 yards on the drive.

Furmanek’s first score came on a 33-yard dash after he dropped back to pass and saw the middle of the field open up completely. The drive started when he found Dante Nastasi for a 26-yard gain.

Sheffey did most of the heavy lifting before Furmanek faked to him and went 10 yards around left end to make in 21-0, breaking off runs of 49, 12, 2 and 6 yards.

State will play either Manheim Township or Harrisburg in next week’s state semifinals.

“When things were good, they were good. When things were tough, they never gave up,” State College coach Matt Lintal said. “We gave them a couple of short fields, and our kids found a way to prevent them from getting into the end zone.”

North Allegheny only had 37 yards rushing and 147 yards total over the first two quarters.

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