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Woodland Hills and McKeesport "run" into WPIAL title game
By Jason Coleman, Nauticom Sports Staff

Woodland Hills and McKeesport "run" into WPIAL title game

By: Jason Coleman, Nauticom Sports Staff

Photos by Pete Gyrich

McKeesport continues its unexpected run!

Prior to the 1998 WPIAL AAAA playoffs the talk was about the overall strength of the Quad North and the surprisingly improved play in the Quad West. But come Saturday it will be the Quad East that sends two representatives in the finals at Three Rivers Stadium. Many people expected Woodland Hills, a 42-21 winner over Mount Lebanon, to be there. The surprise is their competition. The McKeesport Tigers continued their Cinderella run as they used a potent running game to eliminate Norwin 43-16 to return to the title game for the first time since Brandon Short lead them to the 1994 title. McKeesport didn’t win with finesse. They only ran a handful of plays. That was more than enough though to leave the Norwin defense baffled and allowed the Tigers to roll up 442 yards rushing. In fact McKeesport only attempted one pass, a 27 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cecil Howard to Jamie Goodwin. Howard, a junior, was the star of the afternoon as he raced for 254 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He has 760 yards rushing in three playoff games and has been responsible for twelve touchdowns.

It was McKeesport’s other big time threat that got the Tigers rolling. Assad Allen took the handoff on the first play from scrimmage and rambled 42 yards. He than capped the 71 yard drive with a 5 yard touchdown run to give the Tiger their first lead, a lead they would never relinquish. Howard went 65 yards for a touchdown on their next possession to extend the lead to 14-0. Norwin cut the score to 14-3 before the first quarter ended when Justin Genes booted a 27 yard field goal. The Knights defense stood tough throughout most of the second quarter, but late in the second quarter they bit on a play action fake and Howard hit Goodwin from 27 yards out. A two point conversion made it 22-3. Norwin took over the momentum in the third quarter as head coach Tim McCabe made adjustments on both sides of the ball. Norwin took the second half kickoff and drove down the field primarily on the legs of senior running back Mike Croyle. Croyle, who finished with 131 yards, took it in from 9 yards out and Norwin cut the lead to 22-10. On the Knights next possession McCabe gambled on 4th and 1 deep in his own territory, got the first down and drove well into McKeesport territory looking to cut the lead even more. Croyle lost a fumble though and McKeesport made them pay for the turnover when Howard went in from 69 yards out just three plays after the fumble. Allen, who rushed for 131 yards, scored from 51 yards to raise the score to 36-10. Howard scored his third of the day shortly after and Cody Peer of Norwin closed the scoring with a 3 yard run late. McKeesport out gained Norwin 472-337, but will find the yards much harder to come by next week as they take on the Woodland Hills Wolverines. The Wolverines defense shutout the Tigers 21-0 and did a good job of containing Howard who finished with just 104 yards rushing. Howard had gains of 32 and 27 yards, but no others of more than 10 yards, and he didn't complete a single pass.



Woodland Hills continues to roll!

Someone mentioned after the Wolverines 42-21 pasting of Mount Lebanon that the Wolverines' offensive line pushed the Blue Devils around. "Pushed" is an understatement that cannot begin to describe what Dom DeOrio, Steve Perry, Brian Johnson, Justin Brown, David Bonda, Roberto Acrie and Dom Richardson did to one of the best and biggest lines in the WPIAL. Because of this group, the Wolverines amassed 345 yards rushing. After the game, all the running backs for Woodland Hills wanted to talk about were the holes they had to run through. The back that found the most holes was senior Maurice Walker who, to celebrate his 18th birthday, decided to run for over a hundred yards and score two touchdowns. The Wolverines running back by committee continues to roll up big yards as Walker, Mike Braodnax, Curt Hall and quarterback Shawn Spencer found the going easy for most of the game. It didn’t start out so smooth as Mount Lebanon took the opening kickoff and drove for a score. Chris Fiumara's 51 yard touchdown pass from Kevin Weidl shocked the Wolverine fans but would turn out to be the only offensive touchdown the Blue Devils could muster until the 1:10 mark of the fourth quarter. Woodland Hills responded immediately and went 76 yards in 11 plays to tie the score at 7. Fullback Mike Broadnax, who rushed for 70 yards on 10 carries in the game, took it in from the seven yard line. Walker added touchdown runs of 23 and 3 yards in the second quarter to give Woodland Hills a 21-7 halftime lead. Spencer started the second half with a 17 yard touchdown in the third quarter, but Mount Lebanon's Sam Mathews returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. The Wolverines added touchdowns from Spencer again from 20 yards out and Hall on an 8 yard run. Hall had 70 yards on 10 carries. The win puts Woodland Hills in the title game for the second time in four years. Woodland Hills defeated North Allegheny 22-15 for the 1996 title. This time it will be a McKeesport Tigers team that was only trailing Woodland Hills 6-0 in the fourth quarter the first time these two teams got together in week 8.