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Written by: Phil Myers on Thursday, December 16th, 2021
Written by Protime and site owner Billy Splain
Kicking it off:
The weekend of championship football started off with our preview show, “The STATE of PA Football” live from Primanti Bro’s on Chocolate Ave in Hershey. We had our staff there to do the show. Billy, Protime, Tristan Klinefelter, Brian “Hollywood” Ptashinski, Ed Weaver and Dan “the man behind the scenes” Reed on the controls. The manager was very excited to have us there, and he showed us a signed Big 33 jersey he has hanging on a column. The food was great, most of us had the wings, Protime got “nuggets” and we had a mountain of fries for all!
We had a couple technical glitches but for the most part we had a great show. We have to thank Joe Gilloway from the Linglestown Gazette Sports for sitting in with us. Nick Calcutta from CoachComm was also in the house as well as other fellow media members. It was also great to have some Redbank Valley fans in the house!
Then we sat around talking with media members, hashing out what might happen over the weekend and rehashing the 2021 season. Always good to talk with fellow media reps. As it got late we headed off to our hotel to prepare for the upcoming weekend. I know this reporter didn’t get a wink of sleep, it’s like Christmas Eve for me!
Morning came and we were greeted with fall like temperatures! That was a nice surprise. Breakfast at the hotel then it was off to a Big 33 meeting for Ed and I. Eventually we made it to the stadium and had a staff meeting with the rest of our PFN crew that was covering the game. Shane Lux, Bruce Lux and our #1 photographer Sykotyk joined us in the “green room” to hash out coverage assignments. Dave Burnworth was also there and shot pics from the stands. The gang did a stellar job covering the games for the weekend. Little did we know what an amazing weekend of football laid ahead for us. Consensus was it was the best title game weekend ever held by the PIAA for football. And of course we would be remiss if we didn’t thank Dr. Bob Lombardi, Melissa Mertz and the rest of the PIAA staff for putting on this event. Many people don’t realize the mountain of work an event like this takes!
Take it away Protime!
History was made this past weekend when four championship games were decided by seven points or less. That has never happened before. Only in 1999 and 2019 had there even been three games decided by a touchdown or less. Even the two games that were decided by more than seven points were competitive through three quarters. Championship weekend 2021 also showcased some quality defensive play and some fantastic running backs. More on the RBs later, but first let’s review each game.
We were in for a treat on the first day! Both games were as competitive as you could ask for! Bg has been there before and was playing for title number 4. Redbank Valley was the Cinderella story of the year in PA, having never been to a title game. As a matter of fact, we saw three new teams at the title game weekend. RBV, Penn-Trafford and Lebo.
Bishop Guilfoyle 21 Redbank Valley 14 – Redbank Valley made their first ever championship appearance in any sport and really did themselves proud taking BG, ‘the standard of single A football’, down to the wire. It was Guilfoyle’s fourth title in five tries and the fourth in the past eight years. The Marauders’ defense held the Bulldogs to a grand total of 32 yards and two first downs in the first half, but only led 7-0 because of Redbank’s bend but don’t break defense.
The Bulldogs tied the game in the third quarter on a 39-yard touchdown pass. That scoring drive went for 69 yards which was double the yardage Redbank had the whole first half. Guilfoyle retook the lead on a 57-yard jump pass in a short yardage situation. BG had been successfully running the ball up the gut and figured this was a good time to run the trick play as the RBV defensive backs kept creeping closer and closer to the line of scrimmage as the game went on.
With four and a half minutes remaining in the game Redbank tied it at 14 with their own trick play. WR Chris Marshall lined up as the ‘wildcat’ and handed the ball off to WR Ashton Kahle, who had been in motion. Kahle in turn flipped the ball to QB Bryson Bain who had lined up as a receiver. Bain then hit a wide-open Marquese Gardlock for the 38-yard score. As champions do, Bishop Guilfoyle immediately responded. QB Karson Kiesewetter found Cooper Rather for about 40 yards down the sideline to set up Rather’s game-winning 14-yard score two plays later. Kiesewetter had 128 yards rushing to lead the Marauders and Bain had 138 yards passing to lead the Bulldogs.
Redbank Valley did drive into BG territory but a ‘Hail Mary’ pass was picked off to seal the victory for the Marauders. Justin Wheeler, Guilfoyle’s head coach, said that at the beginning of the year his team, who lost four times, was just trying to win ballgames. But he had a plan and the kids bought in which led to another championship. Redbank’s head coach, Blane Gold has a lot of energy and brings a lot to the table for the Bulldogs. Don’t be surprised to see the RBV Bulldogs back in the finals sometime down the road.
Game Recaps: BG HERE RBV HERE Photos HERE
Aliquippa 34 Bishop McDevitt 27 – This game featured the Quips’ running game led by freshman Tiqwai Hayes against the Crusaders’ passing game led by freshman quarterback Stone Saunders. Both teams came into the game with offenses averaging over 40 points and very stingy defenses.
It was McDevitt drawing first and second blood within the opening three minutes of the game. A 59-yard TD pass from Saunders to Mario Easterly on the second play of the game followed by Marquese Williams’ 15-yard run after a pooched kickoff was recovered by the Crusaders gave the local team a 13-0 lead. Aliquippa had to answer or possibly get blown out. Answer they did when Hayes raced 42 yards to pay dirt. Then, 58 seconds later, came the turning point of the game. Cameron Lindsey intercepted a Saunders pass and took it to the house for a 34-yard pick six to give the Beaver County squad a 14-13 lead with five minutes left in the first quarter. That defensive score turned out to be the difference in this hard-fought game.
The teams traded scores in quarter number two resulting in a 20-20 tie at halftime. The third stanza saw no scoring but Aliquippa was sitting on the McDevitt one as the quarter ended. Hayes scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to cap an eight-minute drive. He scored a little later to put his Quips up 34-20. Saunders hit Williams late to pull within seven. With Aliquippa facing a fourth down in their own territory head coach Mike Warfield made the decision to go for it. The Quips made the first down and from there ran out the clock to win their fourth state title, the second in four years with Warfield at the helm. It was McDevitt’s fourth defeat since winning the state championship in 1995.
Hayes ran for 141 yards and scored three times for the winners, while Saunders threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns for the losers. Each team had another offensive player who performed excellently. For Aliquippa it was quarterback Quentin Goode who was 9 of 12 passing for 127 yards. For Bishop McDevitt it was Easterly who caught four passes for 126 yards.
Game Recaps: Quips HERE McDevitt HERE Photos HERE
Southern Columbia 62 Serra Catholic 25 – Southern won its fifth straight championship tying their own record for most consecutive titles. Appearing in their 20th title game, they won a record twelfth gold medal. Erie Cathedral Prep is second in appearances with nine. Berwick, St. Joes, and Archbishop Wood are second in PIAA football championships with six to their credit. Jim Roth, the state’s winningest coach and one of the winningest active coaches in America, won his 471st game.
The contest was close through three quarters because of Serra’s Max Rocco who threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns, but the Tigers scored five times in the last quarter to pull away. Southern Columbia’s defense held the Eagles to a minus 72 yards rushing, in large part due to nine sacks on the day. Meanwhile, the Tigers amassed 396 rushing yards thanks to Gavin Garcia’s 162 yards and three TDs. Braeden Wisloski added three scores of his own for Southern. Wisloski fractured his heel and tibia during the season, so it was somewhat of a miracle he was able to come back and play. Wisloski is the defending PIAA Class AA 100-meter sprint champ. Terrell Booth grabbed five passes for 172 yards and a pair of scores for the Eagles.
The game took over three hours to play, not only because there were so many touchdowns, but because of all the penalties. Both teams combined for 22 penalties for 180 yards. Southern had 15 penalties totaling 115 yards. “We had more penalties than I can ever remember with touchdowns and big plays being wiped out,” stated Roth, “but in the end this capped off an odd season in the best possible way.”
Game Recaps: SCA HERE Serra HERE Photos HERE
Penn-Trafford 17 Imhotep Charter 14 (OT) –
This was about as exciting a game as this reporter ever saw at Hershey. It ranks right up there with that Manheim Central OT game in the snow!
This was perhaps the greatest 5A title tilt ever and definitely a top 10 game in any class in the 34-year history of PIAA football championships. These two teams duked it out all night long as the defenses played superbly. Coming into the game Imhotep’s defense allowed an average of five points a game and had only given up double digit points twice. LaSalle scored 13 on them to give them their only loss and Dematha out of the D.C. area scored 10.
Imhotep tried to intimidate Penn-Trafford right from the get-go as the Panther players yelled obscenities at the Warriors during warm-ups and throughout the game and got in their face during the coin toss. According to Wisconsin recruit Cade Yacamelli that didn’t bother Penn-Trafford any. In fact, as it turned out, those actions may have motivated the Warriors.
Imhotep dominated the time of possession and outgained P-T for the game 240 yards to 168, but perseverance and getting just enough offense when they needed to, got the Warriors touchdowns at the end of each half and a chance to pull off the upset. The victory was secured when Nathan Schlessinger booted a field goal in overtime and then the Warrior defense sacked the Panther quarterback on fourth down when Imhotep had the ball in overtime.
Penn-Trafford’s two touchdowns came with only four seconds remaining in the first half and 34 seconds left in the game. Yacamelli had an amazing run of 36 yards to the Panther two to set up his own two-yard run at the end of the second quarter to give P-T a 7-6 halftime lead. Imhotep’s Rahmir Stewart scored his second TD of the game and also ran in the two-point conversion to put his Panthers on top 14-7 at the 7:29 mark of the final quarter. But Penn-Trafford rallied by going 56 yards in twelve plays scoring on Conlan Greene’s two-yard jump pass to Jack Jollie to send the contest to overtime. According to coach John Ruane they practice that play all season long. Up to that last drive by Penn-Trafford, the Warriors had a total of ten net yards in the second half.
Stanley ‘Tre’ McLeod rushed for 165 yards to lead the Panthers. Yacamelli had 99 yards rushing and 33 yards receiving for the Warriors who won their first state championship in their first title game appearance. It was said before and worth saying again, this was perhaps the greatest game in the history of Penn-Trafford football.
Game Recaps: PT HERE TEP HERE Photos HERE
Central Valley 7 Wyomissing 0 –
Billy: First off, we were all amazed at the temperature on Saturday. 60+ degrees? Yeah, we’ll take that! However, we were all anticipating the forecasted heavy storms and everyone on field level was constantly checking the radar and hourly forecast on their phones. This game stayed rain free!
This was the second lowest scoring game in the history of PIAA title games. Only Farrell’s 6-0 win over Southern Columbia in 1995 was a lower scoring game. This was also the 20th shutout in championship games. Head coach Mark Lyons, who has been in that position since the school’s inception in 2010, has been to states with the Warriors four times with this being win number two.
Twenty minutes before the game one of the Central Valley band leaders, Jordyn Herman, was asked to sing the National Anthem. She did a fantastic job and as she walked past the team to get to the band section Coach Lyons made the distinct effort to get down the sidelines to give her a high five. Very classy.
Central Valley had a field goal blocked on their opening drive and after that neither team did much, even though they each failed on a fourth down attempt in the others’ territory in that opening half. One highlight was when Central Valley had the ball at the Wyomissing five, the center Jackson Tonya, a 6’2” 225 lb. junior did his best Michael Oher imitation from the movie ‘The Blind Side’ when he drove one of the Spartans’ big men through the back of the end zone ending in a pancake.
Central Valley drove deep into Wyomissing territory in the third quarter only to see the Spartans Tommy Grabowski make an unbelievable one-handed interception of a jump pass near the goal line. Landon Alexander, who ended up with 230 yards rushing, scored the game’s only touchdown early in the fourth quarter to give the C.V. Warriors their second straight 3A crown. Both wins were against the Spartans. Wyomissing won their only state title in 2012 by beating Aliquippa on a 50-yard field goal. Another item to note was that Central Valley gave Aliquippa their only loss this year 21-12.
Game Recaps: CV HERE WYO HERE Game Photos HERE
Mount Lebanon 35 St. Joseph’s Prep 17 –
Billy: When game time neared, we were all still watching our phones and comparing radar from different sites. Good news! It appeared the rain wasn’t going to hit us! We did have some brief showers at halftime, but it was what we got after they passed that may have changed the game. The winds were gusting at 50 mph. Hats were flying all over. At one point, Alex from our affiliate THREE RIVERS BROADCASTING in Pittsburgh went chasing after the head referees hat which had blown all the way to the scoreboard. We all discussed who the wind would favor. Turns out it favored the Blue Devils. SJP got the ball going with the wind in the third and it definitely affected Lebo offense going into the wind. But when the fourth quarter hit, it was advantage Blue Devils.
This was the first appearance by the Blue Devils in the state finals, and a memorable one it was beating powerhouse St. Joes who has made eight finals in the last nine years, winning six times. This was coach Bob Palko’s fourth time at states and second win. He went three straight years when he coached West Allegheny, winning one of three games with Strath Haven. Palko had great excitement for his players, but was saddened due to the loss last Monday of his close friend and former West Allegheny assistant coach, Mark Davis. If you look close at the team picture, Palko is holding up a picture of his long-time buddy.
Mount Lebo’s diverse offense and powerful defense was too much for the Hawks of St. Joes to handle. St. Joes scored first but an 86-yard pass from Joey Daniels to Mike Beiersdorf promptly tied the game at seven. The Blue Devils followed that with two more scores before Prep cut the deficit to 21-14 at halftime. A field goal by the Hawks brought them to within four at the end of the third stanza, but two Alex Tecza TDs in the fourth quarter iced the game for the Blue Devils.
Daniels threw for over 200 yards and two touchdowns. Tecza had 88 yards rushing and another 45 receiving. Samaj Jones passed for 150 yards for the Hawks and wide receiver David Washington had five catches for 118 yards.
Game Recaps: LEBO HERE SJP HERE Photos in articles
Video Highlights from the entire weekend HERE
There was a plethora of very good running backs gracing Hersheypark Stadium this past weekend including Tiqwai Hayes and Jon Tracy of Aliquippa, Marquese Williams of Bishop McDevitt, Gavin Garcia of Southern Columbia, Stanley McLeod of Imhotep, Cade Yacamelli of Penn-Trafford, Landon Alexander of Central Valley, and Alex Tecza of Mt. Lebanon.
Expect to see more of Aliquippa and Bishop McDevitt in the coming years as both are very young. The Quips graduate three starters on both offense and defense, while the Crusaders graduate three on offense and five on defense. Bishop Guilfoyle, Southern Columbia, and St. Joes have a majority of underclassmen returning next year so their chances of being successful in 2022 are good also.
This old codger would like to thank my lovely wife for allowing me to do the high school football thing for three plus months, and my darling cousin who put me up and put up with me for three nights. Lastly, I’d like to thank Billy and the best high school football coverage staff in the country, the guys and gals who write, take pictures, and are behind the scenes helping with technology for PFN. Until next year, have a Merry Christmas, and a happy and healthy 2022.
SEE YA NEXT SEASON!
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