With starting running back Paul Posluszny hobbled for much of the game, Hopewell quarterback Matt Fontana led the Vikings’ ground attack, rushing for 75 yards and the game’s first touchdown, as the Vikings defeated West Mifflin, 17-10, advancing to the semifinals of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
Hopewell defender Matt McCrory intercepted a Rich Belanick pass near midfield with just more than a minute remaining in the game, ending the Titans comeback bid.
Hopewell had built a 17-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter but allowed West Mifflin a touchdown and a field goal on back-to-back drives to begin the final quarter despite losing quarterback Joe Bytzura in the second quarter and leading rusher Brandon Nathan early in the third.
“This was a great test for our team,” first-year Hopewell coach Dave Vestal said. “I can see this team growing a little bit every week. The kids are really starting to believe in themselves.”
The win was Hopewell’s second over West Mifflin this season, having beaten the Titans, 28-13, in Week 7. Hopewell will face Thomas Jefferson next week.
On the Vikings’ first four possessions, Hopewell’s defense stopped West Mifflin’s offense at the 1-yard line, blocked a punt and intercepted a pair of passes. The Vikings offense turned the interceptions into points, as Matt Cosnek kicked a 23-yard field goal to cap off a 10-play drive.
Following the second interception, at the Titans 48, Hopewell needed just two plays to score. Fontana completed a 37-yard pass to Matt McCrory taking the ball to the 11. On the next play, Fontana scored the touchdown on a quarterback draw to take a 14-0 halftime lead.
“Having Matt back there gives us another good ball carrier,” Vestal said. “He’s a playmaker. We like to get the ball in is hands.”
With Posluszney on the sidline for most of the second half with an injured knee, sophomore tailback Jakeel Lay and fullback Mike Bruce carried some of the load, combining for 83 yards and a 11-yard touchdown run by Lay late in the third quarter.
“Paul’s a little dinged up,” Vestal said. “He had a little bit of a knee problem coming in and I think it got a little worse tonight, but he’ll be back next week ready to play.”
West Mifflin opened the fourth quarter with a 1-yard plunge by Belancik and 37-yard field goal by Corey Rogers to cut the Hopewell lead to seven but got no closer.