WPIAL Football Team of the Week: Week 13

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Monday, November 25, 2019 | 7:07 PM


Gateway began the 2019 season as everybody’s favorite to win the WPIAL Class 5A championship.

However after a Week 1 loss in their Big East Conference opener to Penn-Trafford and a Week 7 defeat at Washington Massillon of Ohio, the Gators entered the district postseason quietly.

However, after close playoff wins over Shaler, Bethel Park, McKeesport and Peters Township, Gateway was the last team standing in a competitive 5A title chase, hoisting gold in the rain at Norwin.

In weather fit for a water predator, the Gators edged the Indians of Peters Township, 21-20, in a steady-to-pouring rain Saturday evening to claim a second WPIAL championship in the last three years.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys for finding a way to win it,” fourth-year Gateway coach Don Holl said. “A lot of credit to (Peters Township). They’re really well coached with really, really good football players. They play hard every second right down to the wire.

“I was really thrilled that this group was able to come away and win a championship.”

Both teams came out throwing haymakers and hitting big shots early as each team scored on its first possession.

Senior quarterback Bryson Venanzio connected with junior wide receiver Chamor Price to give the Gators an early lead before Ryan Magiske of Peters Township tied the game 7-7 on a 16-yard run.

Things settled down as both defenses started to shine. Before a field goal by the Indians on the final play of the first half, the Gators reclaimed the lead when Venanzio connected with sophomore Patrick Body on a long 61-yard scoring strike.

After senior running back Jay Johnson scored to make it 21-10 Gateway, Holl and his staff called for an onside kick that the Gators were able to recover.

“We kind of thought if we got back up by two scores, there was an opportunity there,” Holl said. “There was some space the way they aligned. You have to take some chances and our guys executed the heck out of it and recovered it.

“I love when everyone says after the game, ‘Well, how did you know it was going to work?’ We don’t. If we don’t get that thing and give them a short field, then it wasn’t a good idea. You have to take those chances sometimes.”

Peters Township scored the final 10 points of the game, but twice the Gateway defense stopped the Indians with only a one-point lead to secure the championship.

Gateway played the second half without standout junior running back Derrick Davis, the leader on offense and defense for the Gators. He left after suffering a leg injury late in the first half.

“I’m not going to go with a bunch of clichés like, ‘Next man up,’” Holl said. “But we have a bunch of tough kids who battle and we found a way. Jay Johnson took some great reps at running back and some other guys played defense and filled in. They wanted to win and they weren’t going to be denied.”

The title is the seventh in program history and advances Gateway to the PIAA semifinals and a meeting against an Archbishop Wood team that defeated the Gators in the 2017 PIAA Class 5A championship game, 49-14.

“Outstanding program, outstanding tradition,” Holl said of the Vikings. “We have a very brief history, not a great one with them. We’re going to celebrate the heck out of this one and then get to work on that one.”

2019 Trib HSSN football teams of the week:

Week Twelve – Clairton

Week Eleven – Belle Vernon

Week Ten – South Park

Week Nine – Shaler

Week Eight – Cornell

Week Seven – Pine-Richland

Week Six – Baldwin

Week Five – McGuffey

Week Four – Canon-McMillan

Week Three – Freedom

Week Two – Central Valley

Week One – Moon

Week Zero – New Castle

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