| home | about us | search | links | contact

WPIAL Finals Produce Four Undefeated Champions1
By Rick Smith, Nauticom Sports Network

WPIAL Finals Produce Four Undefeated Champions

By: Rick Smith, Nauticom Sports Network

Photos by Pete Gyrich

Waynesburg Raiders celebrate the school's first-ever WPIAL title

Five teams came into the WPIAL football finals last Saturday at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh with undefeated records. Four emerged unblemished. South Side Beaver (13-0) started the day of gridiron fun by winning the Class A final, 21-14, over Monaca (10-3). Waynesburg (13-0) pounded Washington (11-2), 30-3, to claim the Class AA crown. West Allegheny (12-0) rolled to a 37-12 win over Belle Vernon (11-1). In the nightcap, Woodland Hills (13-0) topped McKeesport (8-5), 21-7. For South Side Beaver, Waynesburg, and Woodland Hills, it was their second victory this season over their respective opponents. Only Waynesburg, a #3 seed, was not the top dog in its bracket. Over 25,000 fans enjoyed the four title games.

South Side's Sean McCune

Before the morning dew had dried, South Side Beaver was locked in a scoreless defensive struggle late in the first half of action when Dave Brandon blocked a punt by Monaca punter Todd DiBacco. Brandon scooped up the loose ball and raced 24 yards to make the score 6-0 in favor of the Rams.

The Rams' Dave Brandon

"Coach (Glenn McDougal) told me he knew I had a chance to block it," said Brandon.

"The block gave us momentum," said McDougal.

Monaca was unable to gain a first down on its next possession and the Rams took advantage of good field position following another Monaca punt. The Rams quickly drove 43 yards in 5 plays to add another touchdown just 37 seconds before halftime. Cory Boyd scored from 2 yards out to make the score 12-0. It was the junior fullback's 26th touchdown of the campaign.

"The other players call him The Truck," said McDougal of the 5'7" 212 pound Boyd, "He loves to run over people."

South Side's Sean McCune, the holder on the extra point, ran a fake into the endzone for the two point conversion to give the Rams a 14-0 cushion at the intermission.

Monaca appeared primed to mount a comeback on the initial possession of the third quarter. The Indians drove 68 yards on 16 plays to the South Side 5 yard line. Unfortunately for the Indians, however, they could not capitalize as third down and goal and fourth down and goal passes were both overthrown. The unsuccessful drive consumed 8:30 from the clock.

"When they didn't score, that was in our favor because they ate up all that time," said McDougal.

SSB's Justin Tiller makes tackle

South Side quickly exploded for the back breaker. The Rams took only 5 plays and 2:46 off the clock to travel the 95 yards for a 21-0 lead. Dan Nale scored on a thrilling 71 yard run for what turned out to be the game winning score with 44 seconds remaining in the third stanza. Nale, a 6' 160 pound senior, finished the game with 108 yards on just five rushes.

Dan Nale gets a drink

Monaca wasn't ready to go down without a fight. The Indians scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to make things very uncomfortable for McDougal and his Rams down the stretch. Mike Rossi caught a 23 yard touchdown pass from Noah McKay with 9:18 remaining in the game to cut the advantage to 21-7.

Monaca's Mike Rossi scores

With South Side Beaver poised to run out the clock, the Indians' Matt Phillips wrestled the ball away from Nale and rambled 84 yards to cut the Rams lead to 7 points. The Rams were understandably shocked by the play.

"What the heck happened?" was McDougal's reaction, "That play makes it a little too exciting."

"What's going on?" Brandon asked himself, "I couldn't believe it happened."

Monaca's Matt Phillips

Soon thereafter, the South Side players and fans breathed a collective sigh of relief as Adam Cilli jumped on the Monaca on-side kick. The Rams ran out the remaining two minutes on the clock and South Side had its second WPIAL championship. The last District 7 title for the Rams was won back in 1970.

Raiders' Lanfer Simpson scores

While the Class A final tightened up in the fouth quarter, the exact opposite was true of the Class AA title game. Waynesburg made its first-ever trip to the WPIAL championship game a memorable one.

After Washington gained the initial lead in the contest with a 32 yard field goal by Justin Gregula, it was all Waynesburg.

Prexies' Vontey Johnson is hauled
down by Waynesburg's Bryce Cree

The Raiders grabbed a 10-3 halftime lead on the stength of a 6 yard touchdown run and 32 yard field goal by Lanfer Simpson. The 6'1" 235 pound junior has rushed for 1,452 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. It was his second field goal this year.

A swarming Raiders defense never let the Prexies get close in the second half. Led by senior linebacker Greg Carson, Waynesburg recorded 7 quarterback sacks and caused 4 second half Washington turnovers. Carson finished the game with 3 sacks on the afternoon. The Raiders defense only allowed Washington 96 total yards on 56 plays from scrimmage.

Raiders' Lee Fritz takes Prexies'
Justin Martinchek for a ride

The first two Raider touchdowns of the second half both followed Washington fumbles. Simpson scored his second touchdown of the game from 9 yards out with 2:59 remaining in the third quarter and quarterback Lee Fritz, a 6'2" 180 pound junior, raced in from 30 yards out to give Waynesburg a 23-3 lead midway through the final quarter. Fritz rushed for 74 yards on 9 totes.

Waynesburg's Lee Fritz

Simpson, also a top-notch heavyweight wrestler for Waynesburg, added a 1 yard touchdown plunge in the final minute of the game for his third tally. He finished the contest with 100 yards on 20 carries.

Simpson scores his third touchdown

Perhaps the must heavily publicized game heading into Saturday's WPIAL championship games was the Class AAA match-up. Both West Allegheny and Belle Vernon entered the game with undefeated 11-0 marks and most pundits expected a barn burner.

West Allegheny quickly deflated the hopes of those anticipating a memorable game. The Indians' offense, overshadowed all season long by one of the state's top defenses, scored early and often to quickly turn the game into a laugher.

West Allegheny scored on its first possession of the game on a 7 yard touchdown run by junior tailback Kellen Campbell to give the Indians a 7-0 lead. It took West Allegheny only 3 plays and 1 minute to travel 63 yards for the score. The big play was a 51 yard strike from sophomore quarterback Tyler Palko to Allen Miller on the first play from scrimmage for the Indians.

West Allegheny's Allen Miller

West Allegheny scored again early in the second quarter to double its advantage. Again it was Campbell with a 1 yard plunge. Following a 30 yard field goal by the Indians' Derek Javarone, Palko and Miller again hooked up for a big play. This time it was for a 12 yard touchdown pass, a beautiful over the shoulder catch by Miller, that gave West Allegheny a 24-0 lead.

West Allegheny tailback Kellen Campbell scores one of his three TDs

Palko added a second touchdown pass in the second half on a 61 yard reception by Chris Leonard. Palko, a 6'2" 200 pounder, finished the evening with 7 completions on 9 attempts for 183 yards. The future blue-chip prospect did not throw an interception.

Belle Veron scored on two Josh Cramer to Cameron Totedo touchdown passes. The first came on a 16 yard toss with 12 seconds remaining in the first half and a 9 yarder midway through the third quarter. Nick Kalcevic rushed for 150 yards on 19 carries for the Leopards. The junior tailback finished his season with 2,135 yards on the ground.

Leopards' Nick Kalcevic on the run

Kellen Campbell added a third touchdown run, this one from 4 yards out, for the game's final score early in the fourth quarter. Campbell rushed for 92 yards on 16 carries.

Indians' Kellen Campbell

The win gave West Allegheny its second WPIAL championship in three years.

The final game of the evening featured rivals from the WPIAL's Quad East Conference. Despite a 21-0 loss to Woodland Hills during week #8 of the regular season, the play of McKeesport quarterback Cecil Howard during three previous playoff games gave the Tigers reason to be optimistic going into the game. Howard had amassed over 750 yards on the ground running out of the McKeesport triple option offense during those three contests.

But it was the Woodland Hills' defense that would ultimately earn the accolades by limiting Howard to 77 yards on 17 carries during the game.

Woodland Hills, despite sputtering on offense throughout the first half, took a 7-0 lead into halftime. On their last possession of the half, it was the Wolverines' passing game that set up a 3 yard touchdown run by quarterback Shawntae Spencer. First, Spencer hit senior wideout Jason Russell on a 31 yard pass. The key play of the drive, however, came later in the drive on a pass interference penalty committed against Woodland Hills' receiver Rafael Smith inside the McKeesport 5 yard line.

Wolverines' Shawntae Spencer scores from 3 yards out

Smith extended the Wolverines' lead to 14-0 on a 48 yard bomb from Spencer that left the Woodland Hills fans covered in confetti with 2:19 left in the third quarter. Woodland Hills' soon-to-be-famous Confetti Crew is making quite a name for itself in the postseason!

The Woodland Hills Confetti Crew celebrates a Wolverines' score

Woodland Hills took advantage of a McKeesport fumble late in the game for its final score. It took the Wolverines just 5 plays to drive 24 yards to gain a 21-0 lead with 1:47 left on the game clock. Tailback Maurice Walker did the honors with a 5 yard touchdown scamper off right tackle.

McKeesport's only score was on the ensuing kickoff on an 87 yard kickoff return by junior Jamie Goodwin.

McKeesport LB Anthony Gallaher gets a tackle

All four WPIAL champions now advance to the state playoffs for semi-final games this weekend. South Side will take on District 6 champion Bishop Carroll (13-0) Friday night at 7pm at Altoona's Mansion Park Stadium in the Class A Western final. In Class AA, Waynesburg will face District 6 champion Tyrone (13-0) at West Mifflin High School on Friday at 7pm. West Allegheny travels to Pittsburgh's South Stadium to face District 8 champ Perry (9-3) for a 1pm Saturday kickoff in the Class AAA Western final. In a much anticipated Class AAAA clash, Woodland Hills will battle with District 10 titlist Erie Cathedral Prep (12-0) at Hempfield High School on Friday night at 7pm.