West Allegheny clinches playoff spot by beating Blackhawk in 2OT

Friday, October 14, 2022 | 11:53 PM

The West Allegheny Indians missed the playoffs the past three years, the first that had happened since 1994-96. They will not miss a fourth consecutive time.

With a 16-13 double-overtime win over Blackhawk (3-5, 2-3 Parkway Conference) on Friday night at Joe P. DeMichela Stadium, West Allegheny (7-1, 4-1) clinched its playoff spot.

The last time West Allegheny missed three straight playoff berths, the Indians won a WPIAL championship the following season. There is a lot of football to be played before that, including a matchup with unbeaten conference foe Central Valley next week, but coach Dave Schoppe was excited for his team following a hard-fought win at home.

“The senior group we have this year is the group I came in with. The last couple years have been a struggle,” Schoppe said. “This year the goal was to win some games and get to the playoffs because once you get there, anything can happen.”

The Indians got the first touchdown of the game, scoring with 52 seconds to play in the opening stanza on a 26-yard touchdown run by Brock Cornell. Cornell ran for a 23-yard gain earlier in that drive, and those two runs aided a 76-yard night on 11 carries for the sophomore tailback.

Blackhawk got on the board next with 1:33 to play in the second quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Connor McGraw. The teams went to the half tied 7-7.

The rest of the way was tough sledding for the offenses. Both teams turned the football over and came close on another occasion on each side in the second half.

West Allegheny got the ball first in the first overtime and kicked a 25-yard field goal. Brayden Lambert had missed on three field-goal tries in regulation. Blackhawk answered with a 24-yard field goal from Devon Thomas.

In the second overtime, Blackhawk had a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line and trotted its offense onto the field before seeing the defense. After getting a look at West Allegheny’s alignment, Blackhawks called a timeout and kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 13-10 lead.

“We were going to run a play. We weren’t even going to take a timeout,” Blackhawk coach Zack Hayward said. “They came out in a different defense, and we wanted to take the points where we could get them at that point and we have all the faith in Devon Thomas to hit that.”

To that point, Blackhawk’s defense had been up for the challenge of the second-highest scoring offense in Class 4A. West Allegheny came into the night averaging 40.1 points.

“We had all the faith in our defense. It played well,” Hayward said.

Cornell got the carry on first down for the Indians and was hit in the backfield but broke a tackle and carried it to the 1-yard line. Nodin Tracy ran it in to win the game.

“We’ve been put through the gauntlet the last three weeks with Central Valley, Aliquippa and now West A. (Our guys) played hard and did everything we asked them to do, even on that play. We knew what play they were going to run, and we hit him four yards in the backfield, but he broke a tackle.”

Tracy, who came into the game averaging more than 5 yards per carry, had 37 yards on 14 carries.

“A win is a win,” Schoppe said. “We knew Blackhawk was going to come over and give us a game. We told the kids if we let them stay in the game, it was going to be a long game. Everyone battled, and our kids stayed true to who we are and made some plays at the end.”

Gage Upton was held to 81 yards passing on a handful of completions.

Now the Cougars turn their attention to trying to clinch their first berth since 2019. It’ll take a win next week at Montour to do so.

West Allegheny prepares for a Week 8 date with Central Valley. If the Indians win, and Central Valley beats Aliquippa in Week 9, the three would share the conference title. Aliquippa handed the Indians their only loss so far, 19-16 in Week 4.

“The players put us in this situation and have the possibility to end up in a three-way tie for the conference,” Schoppe said. “We can only focus on next week and the opportunity to go out and play one of the better teams in our conference.”

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