Trickery proves recipe for upset
With so much talk this week about Springdale’s 22-21 semifinal upset of top-ranked Clairton in 2007, it’s worth taking a look back at how the Dynamos shocked the Bears, who will be looking for revenge tonight in the WPIAL Class A semifinals at Yough.
Oddly, Springdale also was the No. 5 seed three years ago, and Clairton was a heavily favored No. 1.
The ’07 game as played at Franklin Regional.
Springdale used 9 minutes, 32 seconds of the final quarter, driving 69 yards in 17 plays — converting three fourth downs on the possession — to get to within 21-20.
Then, the Dynamos went for two to win it.
The dramatic turn of events left the Bears stunned.
On fourth-and-goal from the Bears’ 4, Springdale called timeout.
Offensive coordinator Matt Noll suggested a halfback pass. The next two plays instantly became part of Dynamos’ lore.
Quarterback Nathan Zurisko, who rushed for 174 yards on 26 carries with a rushing touchdown and TD pass, pitched to running back Brian Zoller, who rolled right and heaved the ball into the left corner of the end zone.
The pass, intended for receiver Greg Arch, was tipped into the air by a Clairton defender before coming to rest in the arms of Dynamos senior tight end Aaron Figore for a touchdown.
“We have been underdogs the last few games,” Noll said. “We figured, let’s just go for it.”
Clairton was called for holding on the play, which moved the conversion attempt to the Bears’ 1. Rather than go for the tie and overtime, Noll suggested the two-point try.
Zurisko bounced off a teammate and dashed up the middle and into the end zone for the conversion and a 22-21 lead with 1:20 left.
Springdale relied on its defense from there.
At least on paper, tonight’s WPIAL Class AA semifinal game between Aliquippa and Ford City has the makings of a pitcher’s duel.
The 11-0 teams carry the top two defenses in terms of points allowed in Class AA.
Ford City has allowed 78 points (7.1 ppg), while Aliquippa has surrendered 86 (7.8 ppg).
Ford City has four shutouts this season but allowed a season-high 21 points in the quarterfinals against Seton-La Salle. Aliquippa has blanked Shady Side Academy (41-0) and Beaver Area (34-0) in the playoffs. Beaver managed 2 yards offensively in the loss.
Ford City, strong in the secondary and at linebacker, held playoff opponents East Allegheny and Seton-La Salle to fewer than 100 yards rushing and passing. The Sabers intercepted six passes against Seton-La Salle and had 11 tackles for a loss against East Allegheny.
Clairton has posted impressive stats this season, and Springdale (10-1) will try to limit what the Bears (11-0) do tonight.
Here are some of the Clairton’s head-shaking numbers:
• 1.7 — Points allowed per game
• 1.5 — Rushing yards allowed per game
• 33.5 — Passing yards allowed per game
• 424.4 — Total yards per game
• 82 — Touchdowns scored
The WPIAL announced the Class A championship game at Heinz Field on Nov. 27 will begin at — yawn — 9:30 a.m.
The Class A game normally started at 10:30 a.m. but was moved up an hour so that FSN could broadcast the Penguins’ game at 1 p.m. without any overlap.
The Class AA game will start at 1:30 p.m. but will televised on tape delay after the Quad A game, which begins at 7:30 p.m.
The Class AAA game begins at 4:30 p.m. The Class AAA and Quad A games will be broadcast live.