Dynamic offenses to be on display when OLSH meets Farrell in PIAA Class A semifinals
The temperatures in Western Pennsylvania on Friday night should be commensurate with the Christmas season, which means they’ll most likely be hovering near the freezing mark. But for folks making their way to Slippery Rock University for the PIAA Class A semifinal, Friday may feel like the Fourth of July.
That’s because when Our Lady of the Sacred Heart meets Farrell with a trip to the state title game in Hershey on the line, fireworks should ensue.
OLSH and Farrell have two of the most dynamic offenses in the state. OLSH features a quarterback who has been one of the most prolific passers in WPIAL history with better than 8,000 career yards, while Farrell answers with a 2,000-yard rusher, a 1,400-yard passer and a 1,000-yard receiver.
Chances are, a defensive battle is not on the agenda.
“This is going to be a heavyweight title fight,” Farrell coach Jarrett Samuels said. “This is the chance of a lifetime for guys on both teams, and both teams are going to lay it on the line. We have to go in there and swing every punch we’ve got at them.”
While Farrell has rolled to an impressive unbeaten season, Samuels said that means little on Friday night.
“OLSH is by far the best team we’re going to have faced all season,” Samuels said. “They have a tremendous quarterback, they run the ball well, and they have one of the best defenses in the state. We have not seen a team like that.”
OLSH coach Dan Bradley is equally impressed with Farrell.
“They have big, athletic playmakers,” Bradley said. “They’re well-coached, they’re very disciplined. They don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
OLSH must try and slow down a Farrell attack led by running back Christian Lewis, the leading rusher in school history. An Albany-commit, Lewis has rushed for 2,031 yards and 24 touchdowns.
“We have got to stop the run first-and-foremost,” Bradley said. “We need to stop their running game and make them pass and go from there.”
But the Steelers are far from one-dimensional. Quarterback Kyi Wright has passed for 1,489 yards and 24 TDs, while wide receiver Jordan Townsend has 1,169 receiving yards and has hauled in 20 TD passes. But Wright has made a name for himself on the defensive side of the ball, committing to play college football at Pitt as a linebacker.
“He’s a really good player,” Bradley said of Wright. “He gets off blocks very well, and he’s a good tackler. Pitt is getting a good player, and I think he’s going to do well there.”
“He’s the QB on offense, but he’s the quarterback of our defense, as well,” Samuels said. “His skill-set is tremendous. He brings stability and leadership to both sides of the football.”
Farrell’s defense will need to be at the top of its game if it is to stop an OLSH attack led by Tyler Bradley, who has thrown for 3,228 yards and 45 TDs. His 8,328 career passing yards places him fourth on the WPIAL’s all-time list.
“He’s a high-caliber quarterback,” Samuels said. “He has a great grasp of their system, but he also has a lot of talent around him.”
Both teams won their respective district championships, Farrell in District 10 and OLSH in District 7. But while Farrell had to play in the PIAA quarterfinals a week ago (rolling to a 48-6 win over Coudersport), OLSH had a bye week into the semifinal round.
Samuels had no problem with his team playing last weekend while OLSH was off.
“I wouldn’t want the bye week,” Samuels said. “My team is in a rhythm, and once you get in a rhythm you want to keep it going.”
“I guess we have to wait and see how we perform to know if it was good or bad,” Bradley said.
It’s been a hectic few weeks for Bradley. In addition to coaching OLSH’s football team deep into the PIAA playoffs, Bradley is also the boys basketball coach at Avonworth. Practice began two weeks ago, so Bradley has been pulling double-duty at two schools.
“It’s been busy, but it’s a good busy,” Bradley said.
While obviously wanting to reach the title game, Samuels has a little extra incentive for a Farrell win, something more personal. He has never defeated a WPIAL team since taking over as Farrell’s coach. Adding a degree of difficulty to that task this year is the fact that due to weather issues wreaking havoc on the District 10 playoffs, Farrell will be playing its third game in 13 days on Friday.
“I told our guys they can’t whine about it; there is no time for complaining,” Samuels said. “All they need to focus on is playing the best game of their lives on Friday night. If they do that, they have a chance to play for a state championship in Hershey.”
Jim Equels Jr. is a freelance writer.