Beaver ruins Deer Lakes’ first postseason game
The first WPIAL football playoff appearance for Deer Lakes was short-lived.
Beaver took advantage of an early turnover and rolled to a 34-21 victory in a Class AA opening-round game Friday night.
The Bobcats (8-2) will play Aliquippa in quarterfinal action next weekend at a site and time to be determined. Deer Lakes, in its initial WPIAL playoff foray since the school district was formed in 1969, concluded its season at 7-3.
With 6:34 left in first quarter, Derek DeCuoto recovered a fumble at the Lancers’ eight. Two plays later, Sam O’Neil scored from 1 yard out.
After a second-quarter drive stalled, senior Nathan Mick booted a 24-yard field goal to put Beaver up, 10-0. On Beaver’s next possession, a 55-yard pass from Christian Herstine to Justin Sosnowski put the Bobcats up, 17-0, at the half.
The Lancers couldn’t get the ball in Beaver territory in the first half. Beaver’s defense was often able to get into the Lancers’ backfield before a play could be set up.
“It didn’t go how we planned,” said Deer Lakes coach Todd Hazlett. “When you give up only about 100 yards in the first half and you’re down be three scores, I was proud of the heart we showed in the second half.”
“Our defensive line probably doesn’t get enough credit,” said Bobcats coach Jeff Beltz. “We know we’ve got some guys in there who do a nice job.”
In the second half, Deer Lakes finally got on the scoreboard on an 18-yard pass from Pat Jones to Jordan Fragapane with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
Beaver, however, answered with a 72-yard run by Darien Bradley to the Lancers’ 2 on the first play from scrimmage. That was followed by a 2-yard scoring run by Bradley.
Junior Matt Schultz, playing with a cast on his broken arm, recovered a fumble at the Bobcats’ 26, setting up a 2-yard scoring run on a reverse by Zac Capan.
After Deer Lakes took over following a missed Mick field-goal attempt, Bradley scored on a 40-yard interception return to conclude the scoring for Beaver.
Mitch Martin’s 5-yard pass from Jones made it 34-21.
“Our guys could have laid down in the second half, but they didn’t,” Hazlett said.
Beltz’s challenge was getting his team ready to face an enthusiastic crowd witnessing the first playoff game for a team from the Deer Lakes area since East Deer beat Bethel Park in 1946.
“We were business-like,” Beltz said. “We knew the fan support was going to be awesome. We’re thrilled for the people here at Deer Lakes. Our kids have been here before, so they understand.”
Even though the game was out of reach, a considerable number of fans stayed in the stands to give the Lancers one final ovation as the team approached the post-game huddle.