WPIAL quarterfinals roundup: Pine-Richland rolls past Altoona
No. 1 Pine-Richland wasted no time setting the tone against No. 8 Altoona in a WPIAL quarterfinal matchup, cruising to a 49-7 victory at Gateway High School.
Quarterback Ben DiNucci threw a touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage, a 65-yard strike to Mike Merhaut and finished with 357 yards and three scores on 13 of 22 passing.
“We saw something in their defense that we could run that screen pass and exploit their defense,” DiNucci said. “The line executed it good, and it turned out for a big play.”
DiNucci hooked up with Anthony Battaglia on TD passes of 8 and 71 yards for a 21-0 lead at the half.
Connor Slomka rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns, Merhaut caught five passes for 103 yards, D’Ondre Gastion caught six passes for 134 yards, and Battaglia caught two passes for 79 yards and two scores for Pine-Richland.
McKeesport 20, Plum 5 — Tymar Sutton relieved injured quarterback TyWann Smith and rushed for 152 yards with two long touchdown runs as No. 5 McKeesport (10-1) held off No. 13 Plum, 20-5, in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal-round game at Norwin to advance to the semifinals against top-seeded Pine-Richland next Friday, time and location to be determined.
Sutton, who took over the McKeesport offense in the second quarter when Smith was shaken up, scored on touchdown runs of 34 and 27 yards to give the Tigers a 20-3 advantage.
Prior to Smith’s injury, he gave McKeesport a 7-3 lead with a 61-yard touchdown run on the first play after Plum had gone in front 3-0 on Jacob Chapla’s 35-yard field goal.
The McKeesport defense smothered Plum’s running game, though the Mustangs managed a third-quarter safety after the Tigers’ Tyron Bynum stopped a Plum drive at the McKeesport 9 with his second interception of the game.
It was McKeesport’s second victory over Plum (6-5) this season.
The Tigers defeated the Mustangs, 20-3, during the regular season.
Central Catholic 28, Woodland Hills 0 — Central Catholic’s Johnny Petrishen returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown, and the dominant Vikings defense also scored twice in Friday night’s quarterfinal victory over Woodland Hills in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. Neither offense found much success at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium.
The shutout was the fifth this season for No. 3 seed Central Catholic (10-1), the defending WPIAL champion. But none was as impressive as blanking No. 6 Woodland Hills (8-3) and its backfield full of Division I recruits.
The punt-return touchdown was the fourth this season for Petrishen, who had a 66-yarder last week. His others covered 57 and 37 yards, so Woodland Hills knew the danger. But Petrishen chased down this punt near the left hashmarks and carried it toward the right sideline, where blockers waited to escort him to the end zone. The touchdown came with 7:54 left in the first quarter and was monumental in a first half with almost no offense.
Central Catholic, which led 7-0 at halftime, will face
No. 2 Penn-Trafford in the semifinals Friday, time and location to be determined.
Penn-Trafford 35, North Allegheny 31 — At Fox Chapel, No. 2 Penn-Trafford (11-0) rallied from two 10-point deficits to edge No. 7 North Allegheny (8-3).
Austin Zegarelli caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Brett Laffoon with 6:08 left to give Penn-Trafford the lead. Joe Peduzzi, who caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, had two interceptions to stop North Allegheny’s next two possessions.
Laffoon completed 16 of 21 passes for 279 yards and five touchdowns. Timmy Vecchio caught nine passes for 196 yards and three scores (31, 44 and 57 yards).
Penn-Trafford advances to the semifinals for the second consecutive season where it will face No. 3 Central Catholic for the second consecutive year.
Central Valley 41, Indiana 14 — Pitt recruit Jordan Whitehead ran for 127 yards and accounted for three touchdowns as top seed Central Valley (11-0) routed No. 8 Indiana (7-4). Warriors senior John George, who sat out last week’s game with an ankle injury, completed 8 of 15 passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
After building a 35-0 advantage at halftime, neither Whitehead nor George played in the second half.
Central Valley (11-0) will take on No. 5 Ringgold in the semifinals.
Indiana (7-4) was missing junior quarterback Jacob Zilinskas, who suffered a concussion last week against West Mifflin.
Ringgold 21, Hampton 20, OT — Ringgold’s defense came up big when it was needed most.
The No. 5 Rams stopped Hampton’s 2-point conversion attempt in overtime Friday to come away with a thrilling 21-20 win in a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal playoff game Friday at West Allegheny.
The defense stonewalled No. 4 Hampton’s Matt Rech short of the goal line after Rech rambled in from 10 yards out on the previous play to pull the Talbots within a point.
“We kind of thought they might go for the win, so we were prepared and our defense just did an outstanding job,” Ringgold coach Nick Milchovich said.
The Rams (10-1) will face top-seeded Central Valley (11-0) in the semifinals Friday, time and location to be determined.
The Rams had taken a 21-14 lead in overtime on a 3-yard run by Nico Law, who led them with 93 yards on 14 carries.
Law had an up-and-down game for Ringgold as he scored twice, but threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles.
The Talbots (9-2) had several missed opportunities. Three times they traveled inside the Rams’ 30-yard line only to be turned back.
Thomas Jefferson 28, Mars 7 — No. 2 Thomas Jefferson used a strong running game from Austin Kemp to upend Mars and advance to the Class AAA semifinals for the 16th time in 17 years.
Kemp rushed for 201 yards on 46 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 5, 15 and 1 yards as the Jaguars rolled up 240 yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson’s defense held Mars’ vaunted running attack to minus-41 yards on 20 carries.
Ori Rinaman, who rushed for 239 last week in a first-round win over Montour, was held to 4 yards on eight carries.
“Our big thing was that we knew we couldn’t let them run the ball,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. “Our defense was key to the game.”
TJ held Mars to 105 yards and had six sacks.
Mars got on the board first on a Rob Carmody 58-yard touchdown reception from Jake Rosswog late in the first to make it 7-0.
Thomas Jefferson answered with a 17-play, 77-yard drive that was all Kemp.
Kemp rushed 11 straight times and 15 on the drive and capped the more than nine-minute drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to tie it at 7-7.
Thomas Jefferson took the lead on another lengthy drive in the third that was capped by a Kemp 1-yard run.
Three plays later, Braden Pahanish sacked Rosswog and forced a fumble that he returned 3 yards for a score and a 21-7 lead.
Thomas Jefferson (11-0) will take on West Allegheny (10-1) in the semifinals next week.
West Allegheny has defeated the Jaguars the last two times they played in the WPIAL playoffs.
West Allegheny 37, Franklin Regional 14 — The No. 3 seed Indians, who used a balanced pro-style attack through nine-plus weeks, became direct snap-happy and bullied No. 6 Franklin Regional for stretches of their 37-14 win in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals at Martorelli Stadium.
Senior Chayse Dillon and juniors Whitney White and Terence Stephens combined for 328 yards on 47 carries and scored all five of the defending WPIAL champion’s touchdowns.
West Allegheny (10-1) will meet No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (11-0) in the semifinals.
“It’s all different (each week),” Palko said of the wildcat offense. “And that’s a tribute to the kids. You come in with all our different packages and personnel, and they’re unselfish.”
Dillon broke open a tight game on West Allegheny’s first play of the third quarter, as he raced 61 yards down the right hash for a touchdown that put the Indians ahead 30-14.
He scored on a 14-yard keeper midway through the fourth and finished with 23 carries for 158 yards.
Stephens had 18 carries for 119 yards.
Aliquippa 40, Mt. Pleasant 0 — Kaezon Pugh rushed for 194 yards and five touchdowns — four in the first half — as second-seeded Aliquippa (11-0) shut out Mt. Pleasant (8-3) in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal game at Canon-McMillan.
It is the sixth consecutive semifinal appearance for the Quips, who are seeking a district record 16th WPIAL championship.
Pugh opened the scoring for Aliquippa 21 seconds into the game, running 56 yards for a touchdown on the Quips’ second play.
Pugh would add touchdown runs of 3, 10 and 5 yards in the first half before tacking on a 53-yarder in the third quarter.
“He’s a running back — running backs are supposed to run,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. “I don’t know what to say. My wife told me I have a problem with dispensing praise.”
South Fayette 39, South Park 21 — It took perhaps the best game of the season from senior quarterback Brett Brumbaugh, but No. 1 South Fayette (11-0) fended off a strong effort from No. 9 South Park to win 39-21 in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal Friday at Peters Township.
South Fayette will take on No. 5 Seton-La Salle (10-1) in the semifinals next Friday, time and location to be determined.
Brumbaugh completed 18 of 34 passes for 368 yards and three second-half touchdowns to lead the comeback over the conference rival.
“We faced some adversity,” Brumbaugh said. “It was nothing new to us after last year, and we just didn’t get rattled. We made some bad plays, and a lot of things went wrong for us in the first quarter, first half, but that’s the great thing about this team. We never give up, and we keep fighting until we get that victory.”
South Park (8-3) led 21-13 in the third quarter after a 51-yard run by Nick Scholle set up a 5-yard score by the senior quarterback.
But Brumbaugh overcame eight dropped passes by his receivers and threw touchdowns of 40 yards to Dan Trimbur and 26 and 45 yards to Nick Ponikvar.
Seton-La Salle 28, Highlands 21 — Tyler Perone passed for 190 yards and two touchdowns and added a third score on the ground as Class AA No. 5 Seton-La Salle (10-1) beat No. 4 Highlands (10-1) in the WPIAL quarterfinals at Valley’s Memorial Stadium.
The Rebels defense came up with a big stop in the closing minutes, forcing a Highlands three-and-out with less than two minutes left.
Seton-La Salle clinched the win by picking up a first down on the ensuing drive.
“Our defense has stepped it up all year,” Seton-La Salle coach Damon Rosol said. “They bend, but they didn’t break when they had to.”
Danzel McKinley-Lewis had a rushing and receiving touchdown for Seton-La Salle.
Brayden Thimons passed for 139 yards and a touchdown for Highlands, and Jeremy Jackson caught eight passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Washington 58, Apollo-Ridge 30 — Malik Wells ran for 197 yards and three touchdowns to power Class AA No. 3 Washington (11-0) to a quarterfinal victory over No. 6 Apollo-Ridge (9-2) at Latrobe’s Rossi Field.
Washington advances to play Aliquippa (11-0).
Jordan Spina passed for 112 yards on five completions and a pair of touchdowns for the Prexies, who also got 127 yards and two scores from Kurt Adkins, including a 55-yard burst.
Pitt recruit Tre Tipton caught six passes for 133 yards and a late 69-yard touchdown for Apollo-Ridge.
Apollo-Ridge was intercepted three times.
Vikings 1,000-yard back Duane Brown was held to 50 yards on 10 carries. Jonah Casella ran for a team-high 68 yards and two scores for the Vikings, who never have reached the WPIAL semifinals.
CWNC 20, South Side Beaver 6 — P.J. Fulmore carried the ball 29 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns to lead No. 1 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic to a 20-6 win over South Side Beaver (7-4) in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal-round matchup at Geneva College.
The Rams struck first, scoring on a Nathan Block 73-yard run in the first quarter, but North Catholic buckled down on defense and finished strong on offense with a physical running game.
“They were tough, I don’t want to say we overlooked them, but we were a little sluggish in the first half on both sides of the ball,” CWNC coach Bob Ravenstahl said. “But once we got our wind, I think we took charge of the game.”
Sophomore Mario Latronica carried the ball five times for 97 yards, and Darian Mercurio had two interceptions for North Catholic. Block led the Rams offense with 108 rushing yards on 16 carries with one touchdown.
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (11-0) advanced to face No. 5 Avonworth in the semifinals Friday, time and location to be determined.
Avonworth 31, Riverside 14 — No. 5 Avonworth rode a dominating rushing attack to a win against No. 13 Riverside in the Class A quarterfinals at Moon Tiger Stadium. Two rushing touchdowns from Brandon Wasko and two touchdown receptions by Chris O’Malley helped establish a 31-0 lead for the Antelopes. Running back Jamal Hughley was the primary factor in Avonworth’s attack, rushing for 117 yards.
Avonworth quarterback/defensive back Joshua Drwal intercepted two passes in addition to his two TD passes.
Riverside quarterback Jason Dambach threw for 253 yards on 14 of 25 passing, but threw three interceptions. Riverside wide receiver Logan Sheridan caught nine balls for 195 yards, 134 coming on two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.
“We just played excellent defense tonight,” Avonworth coach Duke Johncour said. “We had batted balls, we had interceptions. … We can’t wait. We’re playing to go to Heinz Field, and we couldn’t want anymore.”
Clairton 68, Shenango 7 — Sophomore running back Lamont Wade totaled 251 total yards from scrimmage as No. 2 Clairton earned a dominating victory over No. 7 Shenango (7-4) in the quarterfinals at Chartiers-Houston.
Wade ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. He also added three two-point conversions. Ryan Williams completed 8 of 16 attempts for 175 yards and two scores.
“We have a ton of skill, if you try to shut down one of our guys, we have someone else for you to deal with,” coach Wayne Wade said.
Clairton will play No. 3 Neshannock on Friday.
Neshannock 46, Jeannette 32 — The Lancers earned a spot in the WPIAL Class A semifinals for the third consecutive season by downing Jeannette 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.”