Westinghouse ends City League’s 25-year wait, tops Steel Valley to reach state finals

Friday, December 2, 2022 | 11:19 PM

No City League football team has reached the state finals in 25 years, but Westinghouse is headed there next week.

The rest of Western Pennsylvania might be surprised but the Bulldogs sure aren’t. Senior running back Khalil Taylor ran for 157 yards and one of four Westinghouse rushing touchdowns Friday night, and the defense stifled WPIAL champion Steel Valley, 26-7, in a PIAA Class 2A semifinal at West Mifflin. The last time a City League team reached the state championship game was Perry in 1997.

In fact, no Pittsburgh public school had reached the state semifinals in the past 20 years, a slump that hinted the City League was in decline and maybe fading.

“We’re trying to change the narrative,” said senior quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo, who scored twice on 1-yard runs. “They think that the City League can’t compete with the WPIAL and other teams. The City League has some ball players. … I think we really proved that today.”

Westinghouse (14-0) will play five-time defending state champion Southern Columbia (12-3) in the PIAA final at 1 p.m. Dec. 9 at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.

“It’s all about proving ourselves right,” Westinghouse coach Donta Green said. “Nobody outside of our locker room thought we were going to be here today when we started Aug. 18.”

The Bulldogs are 39-6 in Green’s four seasons as coach and they’ve improved each year. A season ago, they won two PIAA sub-regional games before losing in the first round of states.

This time, they’ve just kept winning.

Friday’s semifinal drew a standing-room crowd, which might’ve contributed to a scoreless first quarter. The only first-half touchdown was on a 1-yard run by Morsillo midway into the second.

“I was real confident but I was nervous,” Morsillo said. “This was the biggest crowd we’d probably ever played in. Both stands were packed. We just had to get the jitters out and get the momentum rolling. Big ups to the defense, though, they held it down for us.”

Westinghouse turned the ball over five times in all, including three interceptions, but the defense negated almost all of those mistakes.

Cruce Brookins scored the only touchdown for Steel Valley (12-1) on a 6-yard run early in the third quarter to lead 7-6. The touchdown came one play after Westinghouse fumbled a kickoff.

The Ironmen were trying to reach the state finals first the first time since 2016.

“We had a good year,” Steel Valley coach Ray Braszo said, “and got beat by a good football team.”

Braszo said Westinghouse’s size and speed caused his team trouble. Steel Valley was tackled for a loss 10 times, including Brookins six times. The Ironmen finished with 65 rushing yards on 32 carries.

“They beat us up front a lot,” Braszo said. “They were bigger and faster.”

Steel Valley also was penalized 11 times.

Taylor led the Westinghouse offense with 19 carries. His 20-yard touchdown run capped a crucial 98-yard drive in the third quarter that gave Westinghouse a 14-7 lead.

Steel Valley had taken a 7-6 lead earlier in the quarter, before the Bulldogs zipped downfield in six plays. Morsillo had a 22-yard run, and Sincere Smith and Taymir O’Neal each had 18-yard receptions on the drive.

“I was excited to see how the offense would respond,” Green said. “We really haven’t had to face adversity like that all year. So I was just excited for a challenge.”

Morsillo added another 1-yard run in the fourth quarter, and Shaun Robinson added a 13-yard TD run with less than a minute left.

The City League hadn’t had a team reach the state finals since Perry was the PIAA Class 3A runner-up in 1997. But Westinghouse would rather compare itself with the 1989 Perry team that won the City League’s only state championship.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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