Westinghouse’s hopes of state championship dashed by Southern Columbia in Class 2A final

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Friday, December 9, 2022 | 3:45 PM


MECHANICSBURG — Westinghouse fairy-tale ending was spoiled by a team that’s very familiar with being cast as the villain in the state football championships.

Southern Columbia broke open a 1-point game with three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a well-timed 61-yard pass Friday afternoon to win its sixth consecutive state championship, this time defeating Westinghouse, 37-22, in the PIAA Class 2A final at Cumberland Valley.

Westinghouse (15-1) was the first City League team to reach the state finals in 25 years and was trying to win just the second PIAA championship in league history.

“I’m hurting for my guys, but this is football,” coach Donta Green said. “There has to be a winner. There’s got to be a loser. They were the better team today.”

No City League team had reached the state finals since Perry in 1997, and the Bulldogs’ run this season captivated fans from beyond the school’s Homewood neighborhood. Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey was among the spectators Friday.

After 15 wins in a row, what would Green tell his team in the locker room after a loss?

“I’m not sure yet,” he said. “Whatever God gives me on the way over.”

The championship trophy will join a collection in Catawissa. This was the 13th state title overall for Southern Columbia (13-3), a District 4 powerhouse that has reached the PIAA finals 21 times in 29 years.

The Tigers’ sustained success was surely part of the reason the PIAA considered revamping its competitive balance rule, but Green said he saw no reason for animosity.

“You’ve got to respect it,” he said. “What they’re doing over there is impressive. They’re doing an amazing job. Their culture is amazing. Their program is amazing, Nah, I don’t look at them as villains. I look at them as someone who’s doing a really good job.

“Hopefully, our program will be on that level at some point.”

Entering the fourth quarter, Southern Columbia held only a 1-point lead over Westinghouse, and momentum seems to be on the side of the City League champion. One long pass changed that quickly.

Southern Columbia quarterback Blake Wise had only six passing touchdowns this season, but the junior threw downfield to Braeden Wisloski on third-and-22 for a 61-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers breathing room. When they scored again less than two minutes later, the lead was 29-14.

“That was just a huge play because it was a third and real long,” Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth said. “It goes from a situation where they think they have us buried and they’re going to get the ball back, to we have seven more points on the board.”

Wisloski, a Maryland recruit, finished with 219 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. The running back did most of his damage on the ground with 158 yards on 19 carries.

As a team, Southern Columbia rushed for 331 yards on 53 carries. Wes Barnes added 111 yards on 19 carries.

Still, with less than three minutes left, the lead was only eight after a 47-yard touchdown catch by Westinghouse’s Devon Jones. But Southern Columbia put the win away with the last of their three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, a 9-yard run by Carter Madden with 2:04 left.

The Bulldogs hung close with a 13-time champion, but that provided little comfort.

“We didn’t come to lose,” Green said. “We came to win. We don’t care who lines up across from us. We want to win, so we’re not hanging our hats on we were toe to toe.

“We didn’t win.”

Southern Columbia led in time of possession by a nearly 2-to-1 margin and ran 15 more offensive plays than Westinghouse.

The Bulldogs rushed for 162 yards on 27 carries, led by senior quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo with 116 yards on 13 carries. Morsillo also passed for 128 yards and two touchdowns, but completed only 5 of 17 attempts.

Khalil Taylor scored twice for Westinghouse on a 22-yard run and a 54-yard catch.

The Bulldogs scored first on a 22-yard touchdown run by Taylor in the middle of the first quarter. The run capped a five-play, 72-yard drive. The Bulldogs led 6-0 after the extra-point kick missed.

Southern Columbia took advantage of a short field in the second quarter to grab the lead. Westinghouse gambled on fourth-and-4 at its own 26-yard line and turned it over when Morsillo threw incomplete.

Green said he planned to be aggressive.

“I would bet on my guys 100 times out of 100,” he said. “I felt at the moment we could get that first down. I’ll live with it. That was on me.”

Despite the short field, Westinghouse’s defense nearly made a goal-line stand, stopping Southern Columbia three times inside the 5, before the Tigers’ Tyler Arnold crossed the goal line on a quarterback keeper on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

Arnold, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior, was initially stuffed at the line but moved to his left and fell into the end zone. The extra-point kick gave Southern Columbia a 7-6 lead with five minutes until half.

Southern Columbia extended its lead late in the third quarter on a 38-yard touchdown run by Wisloski. Arnold added a 2-point run as the Tigers successfully gambled for a two-possession lead with less than three minutes left in the third.

Westinghouse trailed 15-6.

The Bulldogs pulled to within a point in the final minute of the third quarter. Taylor caught a screen pass from Morsillo on fourth-and-4, spun to evade a couple of tacklers and ran 54 yards for a touchdown. Jones caught the 2-point pass, cutting Southern Columbia’s lead to 15-14.

Southern Columbia answered with consecutive fourth-quarter touchdowns.

After the 61-yard touchdown catch by Wisloski less than two minutes into the fourth, Southern Columbia scored again when Murphy ran 35 yards for a touchdown on the team’s next possession, making the score 29-14 with 8:47 left.

Westinghouse tried to keep pace with a 53-yard touchdown catch by Jones with three minutes left that pulled the Bulldogs within eight points.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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