A look back at the WPIAL semifinals and quarterfinals Friday night.
There were some blowouts in the WPIAL semifinals Friday night, but has there ever been a group of semifinal games that had so many fantastic finishes? Doubtful.
Two games were decided on the final play of the game. Another was decided by a touchdown with 20 seconds left. Let's relive:
The McKeesport-Gateway game had a finish that has to be one of the wildest in WPIAL playoff history. McKeesport trailed Gateway, 38-35, and had the ball at the Gateway 44 with only 5 seconds left in the game. Quarterback Jayvaun Shears lofted a deep pass that Layton Jordan caught about the 10. With his back to the goal line, Jordan tried to plow backward with three Gateway defenders holding him. When Jordan got to the 8, he threw a lateral to J.J. Harper, who took the ball at the 10 and ran into the end zone for the winning touchdown. (Harper is pictured celebrating with John Grayson).
Incredible. Unbelievable. It brought back memories of a 2007 WPIAL 4A title game at Heinz Field, when Gateway coach Terry Smith called for the "Our Father" play and the Gators scored on a hook-and-lateral with no time left on the clock against Central Catholic. Gateway tied the game but eventually lost in overtime.
Take a look at Friday's play in the highlights below. It is near the end of the highlights.
As for the other fantastic finishes. How about the way Seneca Valley beat North Allegheny in a 6A semifinal? NA scored on the final play of the game when Griffin Sestilli caught a 4-yard pass from Ethan Maenza. The score brought North Allegheny within 28-27. All that was left was the extra-point kick and we'd be headed to overtime. No big deal. But Seneca Valley's Gabe Miller blocked Ben Cinker's kick and Seneca Valley is headed to Heinz for only the second time in school history and the first since 1989.
Meanwhile, the Keystone Oaks vs. Beaver Falls game was a thriller also. Beaver Falls won when Derrell Carter scored on a 7-yard run with 20 seconds left in the game. Now it's Beaver Falls and Aliquippa again.
Quips vs. Derry
Derry's fans came out in force Friday for their beloved Trojans' game against Aliquippa. But the best season in Derry history ended with a 46-20 loss to the Quips. I don't know if people fully realize how incredible it is that Aliquippa is going to the championship for the ninth consecutive season.
A great run by Derry. A great turnaround story. Check out the highlights from the game:
**** It has been documented about how scoring has increased so much in the past decade. Friday night's game illustrated the fact again. Neshannock set a WPIAL record for points in a playoff game with a 71-28 victory against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in a 2A quarterfinal.
Also, Jeannette scored 69 points, Central Catholic 53, Washington 61. Central Catholic scored 63 in a 6A semifinal? What gives? Obviously the Pine-Richland defense.
**** Paris Ford was up to his usual tricks again. He scored on two runs, a punt return and an interception return in Steel Valley's easy win. He is definitely the prize of Pitt's recruiting class and having a terrific season. I think he might be able to help that secondary at Pitt right away next year.
**** Clairton's Lamont Wade had knee surgery less than two weeks ago to clean up a meniscus problem. It's almost as if Wade said, "What's the big deal?" All he did in his first game back was run for 225 yards in a 46-8 win against Fort Cherry.
**** The times of the championship games have not been set yet for Friday at Heinz Field. The WPIAL will announce the times by Monday, but it will depend on what order Root Sports wants the games. Root will televise all four games, but two will be shown on delay because the station is carrying a Penguins game Friday night.
This much is certain. The 3A game will start things off at 11. The second game will also be live at 2. Root will decide if it wants the 6A, 5A or 4A game live.
**** Quarterback Geno Stone is having a tremendous year for New Castle. And the late-season switch of receiver Marcus Hooker to running back is having huge dividends. After running for more than 200 in the quarterfinals against South Fayette, Hooker ran for 178 against Ringgold.
But what will Hooker and Stone be able to do against Thomas Jefferson?