Neshannock dumps Jeannette, 46-32, in WPIAL Class A quarterfinals
Making the semifinals is becoming a habit for Neshannock.
The Lancers earned a spot in the WPIAL Class A semifinals for the third consecutive season by downing Jeannette, 46-32, on Friday night at Deer Lakes.
A 48-yard touchdown pass from Frank Antuono to Rocco Fazio on the opening play of the fourth quarter gave No. 3 seed Neshannock the lead for good.
The Lancers sealed the victory with a 6-yard run by Robert Lindsey with three minutes left in the game.
Neshannock (11-0) will take on No. 2 Clairton in the semifinals next Friday at a time and sight to be determined.
The Lancers will seek the first WPIAL championship game appearance in the school’s 57-year history.
No. 6 Jeannette, which was shooting for the 699th victory in program history, finished its first Class A campaign with a 9-2 record.
“We knew coming down here we were going to be in for a dogfight,” Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio said. “Jeannette: storied program, lot of pride, lot of tradition. We knew exactly what it was going to come down to.”
Jayhawks quarterback Julian Batts got the scoring underway on the third play of the game, weaving and sidestepping his way for a 73-yard touchdown run.
But Jeannette yielded the momentum with three fumbles in the first quarter.
The first miscue resulted in an 8-yard scoring run by Eli Owens that lifted the Lancers senior over the 1,000-yard mark for the season on his 18th birthday.
“We knew their QB was really good. We worked on (running the ball) all week to contain him,” Owens said.
The second Jayhawks fumble resulted in a 4-yard touchdown run up the middle by Frank Antuono following a fake pitchout.
“We beat ourselves,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “Penalties and turning the ball over three times. I think the turning point of the game is when we came down and fumbled at the 11, we could have gone up 14-0.
“That could have forced them into throwing the ball and doing other things.”
The Jayhawks stayed in the game with big plays.
Terell Canady’s 66-yard run early in the second period gave Jeannette the lead back 14-13 in what would become a seesaw battle until the fourth quarter.
Another Antuono keeper put Neshannock back into the lead.
A 14-yard pass to Canady set up a 1-yard burst by Kareem Hall to put Jeannette back on top before Antuono’s first touchdown pass to Fazio gave the Lancers a 25-22 halftime advantage.
Swade Redman’s field goal after the Jayhawks recovered a fumble tied the game 25-25.
Another touchdown by Owens and a 68-yard run by Jeannette senior Zack Altieri tied the score 32-32 with 1:31 left in the third quarter.
“Their quarterback is a beast. He’s tough to get your hands on,” Mozzocio said. “We kept coming after him, and I think our offensive and defensive line took over on both sides of the football in the second half.”
Batts had 117 rushing yards and 58 passing.
Owens had 26 carries for 165 yards. Antuono passed for 168 yards.
George Guido is a freelance writer.