WPIAL Football Playoff Semifinals Recaps
Saturday, November 15, 2014 | 12:32 AM
Ten WPIAL football teams came into Final Four Friday with a perfect 11-0 mark. Half of them are moving on to the finals while the other five suffer with a final mark of 11-1. That’s the tough part of losing and seeing your season end one victory away from Heinz Field. Here are recaps from all eight WPIAL Semifinals games that you can hear archived on The Network.
A special thanks to Brandon Showers, Josh Rowntree, Cory Campano, Bob Orkwis, Rob Matzie, Pete Blais, Mark Schaas and Sean Meyers for their help on these recaps.
WPIAL CLASS AAAA Semifinals:
Pine-Richland Rams 42 – McKeesport Tigers 7
The magical season for the top seeded Rams continued tonight at Newman Stadium in Wexford as Pine-Richland improved to (12-0) on the season with a 42-7 defeat of #5 McKeesport. The outstanding Pine-Richland passing attack was on display in the AAAA semifinal match-up but it was senior running back Connor Slomka who stole the spotlight at North Allegheny, rushing for 181-yards and scoring 5 touchdowns for the Rams. Slomka scored on a 1-yard run to cap off the game’s opening drive and added a 5-yard score on the next Pine-Richland drive to put the Rams up 14-0. McKeesport scored their only touchdown of the night with: 09 left in the first quarter on an 85-yard run by junior quarterback Tymar Sutton. The Rams answered with the only score of the second quarter on QB Ben DiNucci’s only TD pass of the game, a 13-yard pass to Luke Everett and Pine-Richland led 21-7 at halftime. The second half saw more of Slomka scoring touchdowns, as the Army bound runner scored on runs of 69, 9 and 12-yards to cap off the win. Slomka, who has scored 12 rushing touchdowns in the playoffs, upped his school record total to 32 touchdowns for the year. Pine-Richland head coach Eric Kasperowicz called Slomka “the heart and soul of this team,” after the game. Slomka now has 1,217-yards rushing in 2014 and has eclipsed the 1,000 mark for the third straight season. DiNucci added to his great numbers on the year, completing 22-of-25 passes for 264-yards. The Penn verbal commit now has 3,287-yards passing and has thrown for 34 scores on the season. Mike Merhaut finished with 11 receptions and 111-yards in the game and fellow senior wide receiver D’ondre Gastion had 3 catches for 91-yards and Gastion joined Merhaut as 1,000-yard receivers on the season. Sutton paced the McKeesport rushing attack for the second straight game, finishing with 118-yards on 24 carries. The Tigers, who were making their first semifinal appearance since 2008, ended the season at (10-2). Pine-Richland heads back to Heinz Field for the first time since 2003. The Rams last appearance in a championship game was in Class AAA and ended with 21-7 win over Thomas Jefferson. Next up for Pine-Richland in the WPIAL Quad-A title game: a rematch against Northern 8 conference foe Pittsburgh Central Catholic. The Vikings, the #3 seed in the tournament, defeated Penn-Trafford 52-34 to reach the AAAA championship game for the second straight season. The Rams handed Central Catholic its only loss of the season in Week 8, when Pine-Richland defeated the Vikings 48-28 just across the point from Heinz Field at Highmark Stadium.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings 52 – Penn-Trafford Warriors 34
A year ago, Pittsburgh Central Catholic dominated Penn-Trafford 49-10 in the WPIAL AAAA Semifinals. This year, the No. 2 Warriors (11-1) were intent, for a while, on making sure that did not happen again. But, in the end, the Vikings (11-1) had other ideas. Central Catholic ran away with a 52-34 victory at Norwin High School on Friday night, advancing to the WPIAL AAAA Championship Game for the second straight year. The Vikings were paced by a breakout rushing performance by John Petrishen, who racked up 211 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, while pulling in two passes for 62 yards and another score. Vinny Emanuele racked up 117 more yards and the game’s first touchdown, a four-yard run, which came on Central Catholic’s opening drive. On the Vikings’ following drive, Brian Totten would run in from ten yards out, giving Central Catholic an early 14-0 lead. But the score and momentum would shift to the Warriors’ side of the field. After a trick play put Penn-Trafford in Central Catholic territory for the first time, Brett Laffoon would hit Joe Peduzzi for a 27-yard touchdown. That is when Warrior’s coach John Ruane would gamble… twice. Ruane would call for an onside kick, which Penn-Trafford recovered. On the following play, receiver turned wildcat quarterback Jonah Lisbon would launch a long pass to Timmy Vecchio. Vecchio would haul in the pass at the 10-yard line, fall onto defensive back Damar Hamlin at the 5-yard line and manage to keep himself upright, stumbling into the endzone, tying the game 14-14. The Warriors would again try an onside kick and again recover, but Central Catholic’s defense would force a turnover on downs. After a pair of unsuccessful drives for each team, the Warriors would strike again on a one-yard touchdown run by Devin Austin, extending the Penn-Trafford lead to 20-14. But that would be the last lead for the Warriors on the evening. A 24-yard touchdown run by Damar Hamlin would give Central Catholic the lead back at 21-20. Then, Central Catholic coach Terry Totten would dive into his bag of tricks. Backup quarterback Gunnar Frerotte would line up at receiver, take a pitch and then throw the ball down field to Petrishen, who scampered into the endzone for a 56-yard touchdown. Michael Navarro would then throw his lone touchdown of the night, a 30-yard strike to Damar Hamlin with 42 seconds left in the half, giving Central Catholic a 35-20 halftime lead. Petrishen would then drive home the final dagger on the Vikings’ first possession of the second half on a 52-yard touchdown run. Penn-Trafford would try to keep pace with a trick play pass from Austin to Laffoon for a nine-yard touchdown and a 26-yard strike from Laffoon to Austin Zegarelli. Mitch MacZura would boot a 36-yard field goal and Navarro would sneak in a touchdown from six yards out to cap the scoring for the Vikings. Central Catholic gained 483 yards on the night, including 391 yards on the ground. Penn-Trafford racked up 422 yards, including 315 through the air. Laffoon, who is only a junior, threw for 217 yards and two scores. Austin, in the final game of his high school career, ran for 83 yards and a touchdown, was 2-for-2 passing for 48 yards and a score and caught four passes for a team-high 73 yards. With the win, Central Catholic advances to the WPIAL AAAA Championship Game where they will meet Northern Eight Conference rival Pine-Richland (12-0) at Heinz Field on Friday, November 21 at 2pm. The Rams handed the Vikings their only loss of the season, a 48-28 defeat in week eight at Highmark Stadium.
WPIAL CLASS AAA Semifinals:
Central Valley Warriors 41 – Ringgold Rams 13
The Central Valley Warriors wasted little time punching their ticket to Heinz Field defeating the Ringgold Rams 41-13. The Warriors after winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half would recover a well placed opening kickoff and just two minutes later Jordan Whitehead runs 6 yards to give Central Valley a 7-0 lead. Preston Johnson would add a 2 yard run to give the Warriors a 14-0 lead after one. Central Valley scores three times in the second quarter. First after a blocked punt Whitehead from 19 yards out to make it 21-0. John George then hit Chase Miladin from 6 yards to increase the lead to 28-0. George would add a 6 yard run with under a minute to give the Warriors a commanding 35-0 lead at the half. Central Valley would amass 324 total yards of offense in first half. Whitehead would leave game at the break adding 85 yards rushing and 42 yards receiving to his resume. George would also finish at the half passing for 144 yards to seven different receivers. Ringgold would score twice in the fourth quarter against defensive reserves of Central Valley. The Warriors go to 12-0 and advance to a rematch of the week nine game versus West Allegheny in which Central Valley won 28-17 and a rematch of last years Class AAA Championship, a West Allegheny win. Ringgold finishes the season 10-2 with bookend losses to the top two teams in the playoff brackets Central Valley in the semifinals and week one versus Big Nine Rival Thomas Jefferson.
West Allegheny Indians 41 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars 7
The West Allegheny Indians are headed back to the AAA Championship game for the third year in a row after handling the Thomas Jefferson Jaguars, 41-7 at Bethel Park High School. The Indians pulled off an impressive first half, scoring all of their 41 points and putting the mercy rule into affect the rest of the way. West A got things going when Tyler Amedure returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown. The point after missed wide left but the Indians were on their way. Shortly after, West A recovered an Austin Kemp fumble at the Jaguar 39 yard line and five plays later, Terrence Stephens ran in from five yards out to put the Indians up two scores. In the early deficit, TJ elected to go for it on fourth down on their ensuing drive but were stopped short. Once again, the Indians took advantage and went six plays and 50 yards and Chayse Dillon found his way to a two yard touchdown run. At the end of the first quarter, West Allegheny held a 20 point lead. The second quarter was much of the same. West A only possessed the ball on three drives and ran five plays from scrimmage but found the endzone all three times. First, it was Dillon once again, this time on a 55 yard run. Next, Whitney White ran it in from 65 yards out for the score. Finally, Terrence Stephens got his second touchdown of the night, this time on a 25 yard run. Those would all account for the 41 total points in the first half for West Allegheny. TJ had trouble on both sides of the ball during the half, especially offensively as they punted three times, turned it over on downs twice, and fumbled once. West A turned each of those results into points. TJ’s Jacob Stein gave the Jags a burst of life to begin the second half as he returned the opening half kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown for their first points of the game. Then, Whitney White fumbled in West A territory and TJ recovered in prime position to score. However, the offense still couldn’t get going and again the Jags were forced to punt. With the mercy rule running clock, West A was able to methodically run the game down and end the game. West Allegheny finished with 262 yards on 32 plays and defensively, the held the Jaguars to an astounding 37 yards on 38 plays. TJ came into the game undefeated but with the loss move to 11-1 on the year. West Allegheny is now 11-1 as well but will be looking to repeat as AAA champions. They’ll face Central Valley next Friday night at Heinz Field.
WPIAL CLASS AA Semifinals:
South Fayette Lions 35 – Seton-LaSalle Rebels 21
South Fayette will move on and attempt to defend their AA title at Heinz Field next week. The lions beat the Rebels of Seton La Salle 35-21 in a thriller tonight. Hunter Hays provided 2 touchdowns while running 27 times for 105 yards. Seton went down fighting and left everything on the field, but the lions were ultimately too much to handle.
Aliquippa Quips 44 – Washington Little Prexies 26
For the seventh-consecutive season, the Aliquippa Quips will be playing for the WPIAL Class AA championship, as they defeated Washington 44-26 in the semifinals at West Allegheny High School. Kaezon Pugh turned in a dominant performance, as he rushed for 289 yards and four touchdowns. Pugh put the Quips ahead just over two minutes into the contest with a 1-yard score. Washington responded later in the quarter when quarterback Jonathan Spina connected with DeQuay Isbell on a 60-yard score. The Prexies attempted a conversation to match the Quips early, but their pass failed, allowing second-seed Aliquippa to maintain its lead. Just 25 seconds later, the Quips extended that lead on a 2-yard sneak by quarterback Darrien Fields. Washington, the No. 3 seed, scored the next two touchdowns, a Spina run and a Kurt Adkins 67-yard scamper, to take a 20-16 edge. A 9-yard score by Pugh late in the half, however, staked the Quips to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. In the third, Aliquippa scored another rushing touchdown, as Anthony Barton found paydirt from six yards. Washington (11-0) battled back, though, as Malik Wells, who was hampered by an ankle injury, surged into the endzone from the 1-yard line on fourth down. With his team ahead by two, Pugh sealed the victory for Aliquippa in the fourth. Just seven seconds into the quarter, Pugh scored on a 12-yard run. With less than five minutes left in the tilt, Pugh scored his fourth touchdown of the night to conclude the scoring. In the loss, Adkins rushed for 151 yards, while Isbell accounted for 122 receiving yards. Spina showed his ability both through the air and on the ground, as he passed for 125 yards and rushed for 70. He did throw three picks, however, including interceptions on consecutive fourth-quarter drives. Aliquippa had its own turnover issues, as the Quips lost three fumbles and Fields threw one interception. Aliquippa (12-0) returns to Heinz Field next Friday for a rematch with top-seeded South Fayette.
WPIAL CLASS A Semifinals:
Avonworth Antelopes 28 – Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Trojans 21
The 4th time is the charm for the Avonworth Antelopes. In the 4th meeting of the Cardinal Wuerl Catholic Trojans and Avonworth Antelopes the first half was very similar to the previous three matchups. North Catholic started with the ball and quickly turned it over on a PJ Fullmore fumble recovered by Paul Hefflin on a jet sweep attempt. The snap came and hit Fullmore’s hands hit the ground and Mario Latronica kicked into the waiting arms of Hefflin. Avonworth didn’t waste much time to score putting in a three play drive from 33 yards out to score. The drive was capped off by Jamal Hughley from 26 yards out, 7-0 Antelopes. North Catholic would answer then one a 12 play 69 yard drive. Eight of those twelve plays were rushes from Fulmore. The drive was capped off by a 1yard TD run from who else Fulmore. After a punt from Avonworth the Trojans had a 6 play 55 yard drive topped off by a Fulmore 20 yard TD run. We’d go to half at 14-7 in favor of North Catholic after exchanging a few punts between the teams. Avonworth got the ball at the start of the 2nd half and they took advantage knotting it at 14 on a 51 yard run by Jamal Hughley, his second of the game. North Catholic would answer in a 2 play 76 yard drive on a text book pump fake from Sharlow to Mercurio for a TD pass. Avonworth answered the bell though to tie it at 21 after a 30 yard TD pass to John Gould. North Catholic could t answer the bell turning the ball over on downs and a punt followed by two interceptions thrown by Sharlow finishing their possessions. Between all that Avonworth had a huge drive of their own when at the 10:49 mark of the 4th quarter took the ball eating up nearly eight minutes of the 4th quarter on a 17 play 93 yard drive that Brandon Wasko capped off on a 3 yard touchdown run. Late in the game though after getting a huge pick of Sharlow Avonworth nearly gave their coaches a heart attack when Josh Drwal coughed the ball directly into the hands of North Catholic but that was the drive for the Trojans that resulted in the 2nd interception thrown by Sharlow. We will crown a new champ in Class A next week at Heinz Field as Avonworth will face the Bears of Clairton. Leading stats were PJ Fulmore for North Catholic 19 carries for 136 yards 2 touchdowns. Jamal Hughley for Avonworth rushed for 127 yards on 15 carries ad 2 touchdowns himself.
Clairton Bears 48 – Neshannock Lancers 42
In a classic meeting at Canon-Mac Stadium, the Clairton Bears head back to Heinz Field with the overtime win over the Neshannock Lancers in a battle of unbeaten. Lamont Wade ran for 267 yards and six touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime. Neshannock scored 14 points in the final quarter to force overtime, led by their sophomore quarterback Frank Antuono, he tossed a 6 yard touchdown pass to Seth Duiett to cut the Clairton lead to seven. The Lancers recovered the onside kick attempt, Antuono led the Lancers down the field, he scored on a one yard run with 1:17 remaining in regulation, the Lancers went for the tie to force overtime. In the extra session, Neshannock had the first possession, the Lancers failed to score as Antuono was picked off by Wade on fourth and goal. Wade went in from 10 yards out to give the Bears another trip to Heinz Field. Wade opened the scoring on a 55 yard run, Robert Lindsey scored on a 2 yard run as Neshannock took the lead, the Lancers extended the lead on an Antuono pass to Jimmy Medure for 23 yards and a 14-6 lead. Wade put Clairton back on the board 14 seconds later as he broke a 65 yard run, but the Lancers held a 14-12 advantage after one. Harrison Dreher gave the Bears back the lead on a 1 yard run, Wade scored on a 16 yard run late in the half to put Clairton up by two scores, but Neshannock marched down the field, Eli Owens scoring from 11 out to cut the Bears lead to 26-21 at the half. Neshannock took the lead in the third quarter, Antuono scoring on a 1 yard run, but as was the story of the night, Wade scored on a 29 yard run 50 seconds later and Clairton took back the lead, heading to the final quarter. In the fourth, Wade scored on a 16 yard run to put Clairton up 42-28, what was thought to be a comfortable lead, but the Lancers used the comeback to force overtime and set up a great finish. The Bears are looking for their 11th WPIAL title, they were led by quarterback Ryan Williams, who went 12-21 for 136 yards. Aaron Matthews had 6 catches for 93 yards, Clairton is now 12-0 on the year. Antuono threw for 91 yards on 6 of 12, he was intercepted twice but ran for 107 yards on 20 carries. Owens carried 21 times for 107 yards, he finishes his career at Neshannock just shy of the 4,000 yard mark, the Lancers end the season at 11-1.