WPIAL Football Semifinals Recaps 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011 | 12:32 AM

While eight teams were forced to take that final exit on the Highway to Heinz, the eight teams were winners on Semifinals Friday have reached the major goal of heading to the end of the road in the North Shore. Here are recaps from the eight Round Three contests that have set the stage for Championship Saturday next weekend.

Thanks to Bob Orkwis, Steve Nagler, Rob Matzie, Scott Briggs, Jim Frederick, T.J. DiStefano, Dan Zangrilli and Ken Laird for their help on these recaps.

WPIAL Class AAAA Semifinals:

Upper St. Clair Panthers 28 – Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings 14 
The big news coming into this contest was the health of the Panthers outstanding quarterback Dakota Conwell. Conwell’s right ankle was injured last week in Upper St. Clair’s quarterfinal win over Erie McDowell. Conwell spent the night at Chartiers Valley High School in sweat pants with a walking boot on his right foot. The bigger news from this WPIAL Semifinal match up was the third seeded Panthers overcoming the Conwell injury to beat Central Catholic 28-14. The biggest news – junior quarterback Pete Coughlin stepping into Conwell’s shoes on offense and rushing for 209-yards and a touchdown in the victory. Central Catholic got off to a fast start, when Damion Jones-Moore returned the opening kickoff 58-yards to the USC 30-yard line. Perry Hills would end the drive finding Anthony Nixon for a 7-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead for the Vikings. The Panthers would tie the game at 7-7 at 10:43 of the 2nd quarter. A.J. McGuire capped off a 10-play drive with an 8-yard TD run and Killan Mulkern’s point after knotted the game. Late in the first half, the Vikings made two costly mistakes which gave Upper St. Clair the halftime lead. Hills had a 26-yard touchdown run negated by a holding call. On the next play, Hills was sacked and fumbled the football which was recovered by James Southern. The Panthers made the turnover hurt when Mulkern connected on his first field goal of the season from 24-yards to give USC a 10-7 lead with: 19 left before halftime. Mulkern would kick a 21-yard field goal to cap off a 6 minute plus drive to start the third quarter for Upper St. Clair and the lead was 13-7 Panthers. But Hills and the Vikings would answer back. The senior quarterback scored from 15-yards out: 04 into the 4th quarter and Mitch MacZura’s extra point put Central Catholic back on top 14-13. But Upper St. Clair answered right back on the ensuing drive with the games most exciting play. Coughlin took a shotgun snap and ran left on a quarterback draw. The Vikings sniffed the play out and forced the junior back to his right. Coughlin was hemmed in by the Central defense on that side of the field and headed back to his left, found a seem and bolted 73-yards into the end zone for the lead and the back breaking score just : 21 after PCC had retaken the lead. The Panthers went for 2-points, and McGuire barreled his way into the end zone to make the score 21-14. Then Coughlin put the icing on his great performance with 3:35 left in the game. He looked down the right sideline and found Mike Wilcox behind the Central secondary and hit the senior speedster in stride for a 25-yard touchdown pass and the game’s final score.  No Dakota Conwell, no problem for Upper St. Clair as Coughlin carried 21 times for his 209-yards and also completed 4 passes for another 61-yards. The Upper St. Clair defense was equally impressive in handing second seeded Central (11-1) its first loss of 2011. The Panthers shut down Moore, holding the talented senior running back to 33-yards in his final game. The Vikings managed just 37-yards rushing while Upper St. Clair piled up 304-yards on the ground. Hills did complete 9-of-19 passes for 104-yards, but was intercepted for the first time all year by Ryan Boyd. The Panthers have now won 9 straight games in improving to (11-1). Upper St. Clair returns to the WPIAL AAAA title game for the first time since winning the championship in 2006. USC will get a rematch with the defending state champions, (12-0) North Allegheny. The top seeded Tigers came from behind to knock off Gateway 21-17 and return to Heinz Field for the second straight season. These two teams met in week three during the regular season. In that game, North Allegheny overcame a 14-0 halftime deficit to defeat Upper St. Clair 28-21. That game is the only loss of the season so far for the Panthers. The semifinal win for Upper St. Clair was the 354th victory for Panthers head coach Jim Render.

North Allegheny Tigers 21 – Gateway Gators 17 
In a game reminiscent of the last time these two teams played back in the WPIAL Semi-Finals in 2007, the North Allegheny Tigers defeated the Gateway Gators and will have the chance to defend their 2010 WPIAL crown.  North Allegheny scored the only two touchdowns in the first half and showcased their dominant rushing attack behind their talented offensive line.  On their second drive of the game, North Allegheny broke the ice as Alex Deciantis scampered into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown.  Deciantis was also a key cog in the Tigers’ second scoring drive and gained 90 of his game-high 144 rushing yards in the first half. But, it was QB Mack Leftwich who capped off the Tigers’ drive early in the second quarter as he scored on another 5-yard touchdown.  The Gators were slowed offensively in the first half when they lost their starting QB Thomas Woodson on their second offensive play of the game.  On a second-and-1, Woodson ran a quarterback draw and was slammed to the turf by a trio of North Allegheny defenders and suffered a separated shoulder and left the game for the rest of the first half.  He would return courageously in the second half.  Brian Jones came on and took over for Woodson but couldn’t get the Gators offense in gear in the first half and the Gators went to the break trailing 14-0.  The second half would prove to be a different story for both of these teams, however, as Gateway would show why they were one of the hottest Quad-A teams in the second half of the year.  On 4th-and-two from North Allegheny’s 41 yard line with just over 6:00 to go in the 3rd quarter, coach Terry Smith called a trick play which saw Woodson pitch the ball back to Jones only to see Jones throw the ball downfield to Mileak Ford.  Ford, who made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch, outraced the Tiger defenders and got into the end zone to cut the lead to 14-7.  Gateway’s defense then forced a 3-and-out on North Allegheny’s next offensive possession and was able to tie the game,14-14, on their next drive which culminated in a 3 yard TD run by RB Andre Martin.  The Gator’s momentum did not stop there as they forced Isaih Faulk to fumble the ensuing kick-off which Gateway was able to recover on the Tigers’ 10 yard line.  Three plays later, Gateway was forced to kick a 23-yard FG but they had their first lead at 17-14.  In the end, however, North Allegheny showed why they were winners of 18 straight games and defending WPIAL Champions.  The Tigers went on a 13 play, 63 yard drive which took 8:46 off of the 4th quarter clock, all of which came on the ground mostly on runs by FB Nick Passodelis.  With just under a minute, the Tigers were faced with a 4th-and-goal on the 1-yard line.  After taking a timeout, Coach Art Walker decided to let his offense try to win the game and Nick Passodelis scored off of left guard and with the extra point, North Allegheny took the last lead of the game 21-17.  Gateway still had life and completed a hook-and-lateral play for 51 yards down to North Allegheny’s 19 yard line with :26 seconds left.  But, two players later, James Kleinhampl picked off Brian Jones pass at the Tigers 4 yard line to salt away the victory.  Mack Leftwich finished the game 2/8 for 32 yards but ran for 29 yards on ten carries and a TD..  North Allegheny runs its record to 12-0 and will try to attempt to win bac-to-back championships next Saturday as the take on the Upper St. Clair Panthers.  Gateway, who fought till the end with a depleted cast of players, ends their record at 9-3.
WPIAL Class AAA Semifinals:

Montour Spartans 21 – Central Valley Warriors 14 
The Montour Spartans got the preverbal monkey that is Central Valley off their back beating the defending WPIAL Class AAA champions 21-14 avenging losses in the title game last year and in the regular season this year.  Neither team would score in the  first quarter before the Spartans would score twice in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead at the half.  Dillon Buechel would hit Aaron Reed from 12 yards out at the 7:21 mark capping off a 12 play 65 yard drive to set the tone.  Julian Durden would score from 3 yards out with 2:08 left as Montour went 7 plays in 76 yards for the intermission lead.  Central Valley would score their first score at the 7:54 mark of the third quarter when Robert Foster who lined up at tailback got the toss and went 40 yards for the score.  Montour not ruffled would answer at the 2:05 mark of the third quarter when Durden rushed in from 12 yards out to regain 14 point lead.  The Warriors unable to get their offense in gear scores on the defensive side of the ball with 6:37 to go as Aaron Law stripped Durden and went 57 yards to cut lead to 21-14.  Central Valley would get a last chance needing 90 yards in :58 with no time outs.  They would fall short as Curtis Lewis’ pass to freshman Jordan Whitehead would get him to the goal line with no time left and Montours Darrin Masseys stripping the ball loose as he tried to get across the goal line ending the game.  On the night Julian Durden would carry 31 times for 192 yards and 2 touchdowns. Dillon  Buechel  was 12 of 18  for 158 and a score. Central Valley would commit  6 turnovers.  Montour heads to Heinz Field for second year in a row to face the Knoch Knights.

Knoch Knights 9 – Franklin Regional Panthers 7 
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Knoch Knights are going back to the WPIAL class AAA Championship game as they pulled out an exciting 9-6 victory over Franklin Regional at Valley High School Friday night.  Knoch placekicker Kory Wood nailed a 20 yard field goal as time expired to cap an improbable come back by a team that just doesn’t know how to quit.  Both teams were ranked among the best offensive teams in the WPIAL – each averaging over 40 points per game – but it was the defenses that stood out in this game – Franklin Regional picked off three Knoch passes and recovered a Knoch fumble – but could only muster 7 points  against the Knights.  Knoch got an early score on their first possession of the game as Quarterback Ky Kenyon took it in from one yard out halfway through the first quarter. The snap from center however was bad and Wood never got a chance to boot the XP – Knoch led 6-0.  The lead would hold up until early in the fourth quarter.  Following the Panther’s Cory Lauer’s second interception of a Ky Kenyon pass, Franklin Regional drove 25 yards in five plays and got the tying score as the Panther’s all-time leading rusher Dane Brown skittered his way into the end zone from five yards out.  The all-important extra point was good and the Knights trailed in the fourth quarter for the first time this season – down 7-6.  The Knights would turn the ball over on both of their next possessions, but the Panther offense continued to struggle against the Knight’s defense, and were forced to punt three times in the final 9 minutes.  With just under three minutes to go, the Panthers punted and pinned Knoch at their own 2 yard line with 2:42 to play.  That’s when Kenyon – who had been responsible for all four of the Knight’s turnovers – made things happen.  On the first play from the two, Kenyon rolled out to his left and found a streaking Ben Tackett down the sideline and raced 74 yards to the Panther 24.  Kenyon then ran the ball on the next set of plays to move the Knights down inside the Franklin Regional five.  However, Kenyon would fumble the ball at the two with just a few seconds remaining, and after a consultation, officials determined that Knoch fumbled – then recovered at the two.  That would set-up Wood’s final game winning field goal with just 3.8 seconds remaining – sending the Knight to the Championship game at Heinz Field next Saturday afternoon against Montour.  Knoch’s last trip to the Championship game came in 1992 as a result of a field goal as the Knight beat Montour 3-0.  WISR will be there for the Championship game scheduled to kickoff at 2 p.m. next Saturday afternoon.

WPIAL Class AA Semifinals:

Aliquippa Quips 35 – Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions 0 
Aliquippa dominated the line of scrimmage from start to finish in rushing to its 12th victory in a row in the WPIAL AA Semi -Finals @ Martorelli Stadium.  The Quips allowed Greensburg Central Catholic past the 50 yard line just twice all evening long in a 35-0 verdict to advance to Heinz Field for the 4th straight year.  Both clubs fought to a draw after one quarter before Aliquippa exploded for three 2nd quarter scores on a pair of short Terry Swanson runs plus a 6 yard march by Quarterback Mikal Hall.  A short field was  presented the Aliquippa offense in the 3rd quarter by the play of its solid defense with Swanson scoring again from the 9 yard line and Fullback Desmond Hardy adding a 3 yard run to turn the game into a mercy-rule contest with 4:14 left in the 3rd quarter.  Swanson was playing for fellow sophomore Dravon Henry…Aliquippa’s leading rusher on the year…who was nicked on the 2nd series of the game.  However, He came back to pick off two passes as the Quip defense recorded 5 sacks and forced the 10-2 Centurions into 3 turnovers.  But it was the offensive line of of Malik  Aikens…Jaleel Fields…Nayo Seaburn…J’Wayman Stone and Damon Sims which set the tone for the game in pacing the ground game to a 268 yard performance.  Swanson rushed for 111 yards while Tyrik Hayes added 72.  Defensively… Aliquippa shut down an offense averaging 34.7 points per game in limiting G C C to just 107 yards for the game and just 48 on the ground.  Aliquippa will look for its 14th WPIAL title next Saturday at Heniz Field in the Class AA Final against another 12-0 team..Jeannette.  The Quips last title was in 2008.

Jeannette Jayhawks 40 – Seton-LaSalle Rebels 21
The #2 seed Jeannette Jayhawks and the #3 seed Seton La Salle Rebels battled to a 14-14 tie at the half Friday night at Elizabeth Forward high school, but after that it was all Jeannette as they outscored the Rebels 26-7 in the 2nd half on route to a 40-21 victory. It was just another day at the office for Jayhawks senior quarterback Demetrious Cox, who went 7-9 for 177 yards and a touchdown passing and rushed 18 times for 89 yards and four touchdowns in the victory. The lone score of the first quarter was a Cox 21 yard touchdown run making the score 7-0 Jeannette after one. Seton La Salle would score twice in the 2nd frame, first at 9:52 on a Luke Brumbaugh 35 yard touchdown pass to Lou Rotunda and at 3:39 on a Kevin Hart 2 yard run giving the Rebels a 14-7 lead. Jeannette would tie the score at 14-14 with 10.2 seconds left before the half on a Demetrious Cox 4 yard TD run. The drive was a setup by a Shavonta Craft 49 yard kickoff return. The Jayhawks stepped on the gas in the second half and never looked back scoring twice in the 3rd quarter on a Cox run at 6:30 from 25 yards out and a Cox 15 yard touchdown pass to Seth Miller with 51.6 left in the third making the score 28-14 Jayhawks. Jeannette had 200 total yards in the 3rd quarter alone. But they werent finished yet adding two more scores in the 4th, first at 8:42 on a Shavonta Craft 13 yard touchdown run and a Cox 10 yard run making the score 40-14, after both extra points were blocked. Seton La Salle would add one last score at the 1:30 mark of the 4th on a Luke Brumbaugh 43 yard touchdown pass to Dylan Boccella making the final 40-21 in favor of Jeannette. The Jayhawks running duo of Shavonta Craft and Jordan Edmunds was held in check for the most part by the Rebels with Craft rushing 15-44 and touchdown, while Edmunds carried the ball 14 times for 51. Rebels quarterback Luke Brumbaugh was 19-33 for 257 yards and two touchdowns. The Jayhawks did a great job on star running back Kevin Hart, holding him to 17 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown. Hart only had three carries for seven yards in the second half. Jeannette is now 12-0 and will go to Heinz Field on Saturday to take on the #1 seed Alquippa Quips, who are also 12-0, for the WPIAL Class AA championship. Seton La Salle’s season ends at 11-1.
WPIAL Class A Semifinals:

Clairton Bears 43 – Rochester Rams 7
The Rochester Rams (10-2) struck first, but could not sustain their early 7-0 lead over the Clairton Bears on Friday night at West Allegheny High School.  Clairton (12-0) would pull away scoring 43 unanswered points to win 43-7.  The Rams’ De’Andre Moon opened the game with a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to put Rochester up, but Tyler Boyd scored four touchdowns en route to toting the ball 28 times rushing for 200 yards.  Clairton held just a 14-7 halftime lead before erupting for the easy route.   The Bears winning streak is now at 43 games, while defensive lineman Carvon Thompson played in his 60th consecutive game which ties a state record.  Clairton will now face undefeated Sto-Rox in an effort to claim their fourth consecutive WPIAL championship.Only Braddock from 1955 to 1959 have won more than three straight WPIAL football championships. Rochester has its season end at 10-2.

Sto-Rox Vikings 12 – Bishop Canevin Crusaders 10
The Sto-Rox Vikings (12-0) overcame four turnovers and a halftime deficit behind a second-half shutout from their defense in a 12-10 win over the Bishop Canevin Crusaders (11-1) on Friday night at Moon Tiger Stadium in Moon Township, PA.  With the victory, the Vikings advanced to their first WPIAL Final since 2003 and will seek their  first crown since 1987.  Ron Butschle’s Sto-Rox club took a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 1-yard TD run from tailback Josh Beverly, his 17th rushing TD of the year, capping a 14-play, eight minute, 67-yard drive.  Three third-downs were converted on the series, which was the second of the game for Sto-Rox after QB Lenny Williams had fumbled on the third play from scrimmage at the Canevin 33-yard line.  The Crusaders then answered with a lengthy drive of their own, and capped their 13-play sequence with a 27-yard Jake Schnelbach field goal to cut the Sto-Rox lead to 6-3.  And, after a three-and-out from their defense, Bishop Canevin took a 10-6 advantage to halftime behind a 52-yard TD strike from QB Kevin Mechas to WR Bobby Gustine, as Gustine outraced Pitt-recruit Marzett Geter down the right sideline on a 3rd-down-and-2.  A scoreless third quarter featured two Sto-Rox turnovers and two Canevin series stopped on downs, with Canevin’s Nico DiPaolo intercepting a Williams pass in the endzone and Geter fumbling away a wide receiver screen at the Vikings own 17-yard line.  However, Bob Jacoby’s Canevin squad could turn neither into points with drives stalling in Sto-Rox territory at the 22 and 23.  The latter stop included two quarterback sacks by the Vikings defense as the Sto-Rox linebackers displayed their speed.  Sto-Rox finished with five sacks, all in the second half, with junior Jerrell Houston racking up 2.5 of those.  In the fourth quarter, the game’s deciding points came on a 75-yard Vikings drive, capped off on a 19-yard TD pass from Williams to Geter with 7:21 remaining.  It was Geter’s 10th TD reception on the year, and the 30th passing hurl for Williams, who also finished with 101-yards rushing on 17 carries.  The Geter grab came on a 3rd-down and 16 and after a Vikings holding penalty, as Jacoby elected to push Sto-Rox back rather than declining the penalty to set up 4th-down and goal from the 6-yard line.  The backup allowed Geter space to cross the field as Williams stood comfortably in the pocket and delivered a strike near the goal-line.  Bishop Canevin had two more chances to drive for the victory, but those series that started at their own 15 and 17-yard lines did not even pass their own 30, and the Sto-Rox offense knelt away the triumph.  Beverly finished with 21 carries for 135-yards rushing, with Williams 6 of 12 for 60-yards passing.  For Canevin, Mechas was 7 of 18 for 144-yards while Gustine had 107-yards receiving for the Crusaders.

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