High School

“Mr. High School Sports” LIVE From Warrior Stadium

By Matt Popchock
Tom Woodson

Arizona recruit Tom Woodson has led Gateway’s offensive with over 1,200 yards passing in 2012. (File photo: Lake Fong/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

(mpopchock@kdka.com)

6:55 – We’ve got three events rolled into one at Penn-Trafford High School: Senior Night, the Battle for the Victory Bell, and the de facto Class AAAA Foothills Conference championship game. Tonight, playoff-bound Gateway (6-0, 6-1), the No. 25 team in the state according to MaxPreps, will try to take back the conference title Penn-Trafford (6-0, 6-1) took from the Gators a year ago.

Terry Smith’s Gators are coming off a 62-14 shellacking of conference rival Norwin, while the Warriors, led by Gateway teacher and former Smith assistant John Ruane, are coming off a 27-0 victory over Kiski Area in conference play.

We’ve got updates of this game and other Week 8 contests throughout the WPIAL, so stick around…

7:07 – You might say quarterback play is a “chief” reason why the Warriors, despite serious roster turnover, have remained competitive. Penn-Trafford senior Dorian Stevens has thrown for 721 yards and eight TD’s, and when I talked to him earlier this season, he said he and his remaining teammates really learned a lot from the 2011 senior class. He’s clearly learned a thing or two about running with the rock from Manny Simpson–or perhaps, his counterpart, Tom Woodson. Stevens has amassed 423 yards and four scores on the ground.

Woodson, a senior Arizona recruit, ranks eighth in the WPIAL entering Week 8 with 1,359 yards passing and 15 TD’s, having completed over 60 percent of his attempts. He’s also run for 245 yards and three touchdowns, averaging over seven yards per carry.

7:12 – The probable starters for both teams have just been introduced. Woodson’s top targets are D-1 prospects Montae Nicholson and Pitt recruit Jaymar Parrish, his tight end, who has also excelled at linebacker. Parrish has 247 yards receiving on 14 catches, while Nicholson has 383 on 12, and ranks second on the team in scoring with seven TD’s.

Stevens’ primary target will probably be Brian McDonough, who leads Penn-Trafford with 216 yards on 14 catches, four of them for touchdowns.

7:15 – Our first scoring update of the night: playoff-bound Mt. Pleasant has an early 8-0 lead on Brownsville.

Meanwhile, I’m just getting word of an accident on Route 28 that may prompt late starts for a couple games in the Alle-Valley area, specifically Washington/Freeport and Northgate/Springdale…

7:23 – The leading scorers for both teams are their featured running backs. Sophomore Devin Austin has seven TD’s and has run for 532 yards, averaging nearly eight per attempt, but a big reason I like Gateway in this game is its featured back, Andre Martin. One of the top point-getters in the classification, the senior has racked up 12 TD’s and 647 yards, averaging over nine per carry, and Smith has a capable ball-carrier behind him in Darin Franklin. Furthermore, those two usually get plenty of room to maneuver from their linemen.

7:25 – Franklin Regional up 10-7 on Hampton late in the 1st. Talbots can clinch the outright conference title with a win. Panthers can clinch a share of it with a win. Ambridge and Central Valley scoreless after one quarter. Bridgers still in the playoff hunt in the Parkway Conference.

7:28 – Both teams have taken the field here in Harrison City. My prediction: Gateway, 31-17. Penn-Trafford has good balance, and has shown a lot of character this season, but Gateway is deeper and, I think, a little more athletic all-around.

Yough up 6-0 on GCC late in the 1st. Both teams fighting for playoff berths; Centurions are in if they win.

7:30 – Gateway has won the toss and will go on offense, moving right to left on your computer screen or mobile device.

7:33 – Franklin the starting tailback, as it appears Martin, who suffered a recent lower-body injury, may still be on the mend…

7:37 – Carmichaels, fighting for a Tri-County South playoff berth, leads Bentworth 22-0 at the end of the 1st.

7:40 – Gateway leads 7-0, as Franklin scores for just the second time this year on a 1-yard run. 6:21 left in the 1st. I wouldn’t expect to see Martin much tonight, if at all, if that first drive is any indication. In any event, Woodson, with his poise, was the star of that series, accounting for 75 yards.

7:45 – Central Valley and Ambridge tied 7-7 midway through the 2nd, Pine-Richland with an early 3-0 lead on North Hills, which can make the playoffs with a win tonight.

7:48 – West Mifflin with an early 7-0 lead on Trinity. Titans can clinch home-field advantage with a win. Blackhawk, on life support, leading Chartiers Valley, 7-0.

7:51 – Kittanning leads Valley 7-0 after the 1st. Both teams can make the playoffs if they win out.

7:53 – With 26 seconds left in the 1st, Gateway now leads 14-0, but at what cost? The key play on their latest scoring drive was a 55-yard dart from Woodson to Nicholson, but Nicholson immediately limped to the sideline after the play. Delvon Randall’s 11 catch of the year was good for his second TD of 2012; he made a pretty move up the far sideline to stay in bounds and race inside the pylon for a 30-yard catch-and-score. Woodson now has 16 TD passes on the season, and is already, unofficially, over 100 yards in the air.

7:55 - Penn-Trafford has work to do at the end of the 1st quarter, trailing by the same score.

7:58 – Just like that, the pit gets deeper. After a Stephen Gross sack, Stevens throws his sixth interception of the year, which Malik Ford takes to the house for a pick-six of roughly 25 yards. Chris Conti on to kick now for Gateway; Penn-Trafford’s kicker, by the way, is junior Matt Loughnane, who beat Gateway with a walk-off field goal in last year’s regular-season meeting.

8:00 – Hampton up 10-7 on Franklin Regional at half. Hempfield, which is in playoff contention in its first year under Rich Bowen, leads Norwin 7-0 after the 1st quarter of another critical Foothills game.

8:01 – Timeout called by Coach Ruane, his first, with his Warriors near midfield, still trailing, 21-0, with 9:18 left in the 2nd.

8:02 – GCC has taken a 14-6 lead over Yough late in the first half.

8:05 – Two interesting things on special teams: 1. Gateway doesn’t send anyone back to receive punts, perhaps respecting the fake. 2. Punter Mark Merlino went down like he’d been shot moments ago. Heh, reminded me of Joe Nedney…

8:10 – West Mifflin now up 14-0 on Trinity in the 2nd. New Castle leading Moon 20-0; Red Hurricane need to win out for a playoff berth.

Carmichaels, at the half, leading Bentworth, 43-7.

8:12 – 4:35 left in the half, and the Gators have opened up a 28-0 lead on Penn-Trafford. Woodson with an 18-yard score to Randall, overcoming a holding penalty two plays earlier, so give the future Wildcat 17 touchdown passes on the year. He’s able to really fluster defenses–including this one–with his footwork.

8:14 – Indiana leading Knoch 7-6 late in the first half. Little Indians need to win out and get help in order to be playoff-bound.

8:17 – Mt. Lebanon with an early 7-0 lead over Penn Hills. Indians trying to avoid tiebreakers as they fight for a playoff spot; Blue Devils looking to clinch home-field advantage with a win tonight.

Moon on the board, trailing New Castle 20-7; Valley has tied Kittanning, 7-7, in the 1st half.

8:20 – Somebody tell Gateway alumnus Kraig Riley we’ve got a “prediction gone wrong”; his Gators are on their way to a running clock, up 35-0 with over 2:00 left. Woodson with a 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Todd Jeter for his 3rd TD pass of the night. 18 on the season for the senior.

8:22 – Warriors use their second timeout with 41 seconds left in the first half. Parrish all over the field defensively for Gateway.

8:24 – Now Smith calls timeout after Parrish clobbers Merlino. Perhaps his best tackle of the night. I’d just let the clock run–which it will apparently do, per PIAA rule, when the second half starts–but that’s me.

8:30 – Hempfield 7, Norwin 2 in the 2nd quarter; North Hills trailing 10-3, late in the first half, as Pine-Richland tries to pull off a mild upset.

Halftime: Gateway 35, Penn-Trafford 0.

Perhaps the redeeming quality of the half was junior Brendan Reddy making a good read to intercept a short Woodson pass in his own end zone as the half expired. Woodson already has over 300 all-purpose yards…WOW.

More stats and scores to come…

8:35 – Hempfield has opened up a 14-2 lead over Norwin in the 2nd. Kiski Area leads McKeesport 3-0 at halftime. Cavs need to win out to guarantee a playoff spot, Tigers need to split their last two games. Springdale leading Northgate 21-0; Dynamos need to win out, Flames are in with a win. Central Valley now up 21-7 on Ambridge.

8:43 – West Mifflin up on Trinity 28-0 at halftime, Steel Valley and South Allegheny scoreless. Ironmen are in with a win, or a South Park loss to South Fayette, which leads the Eagles 28-0 at half.

8:50 – As both teams warm up for the second half, lest we forget I promised stats, and stats you shall have. But really, there’s only a couple you need to know, and that’s the QB comparison, which is the story of this game thus far:

Woodson 9/13 306 yards passing; 4 rush 28 yds

Stevens 2/5 INT 3 Sack 20 pass yds; 6 rush 11 yds

8:57 – Matt Arzenti now in at QB for the Warriors, who move the ball right to left to begin the 3rd.

9:00 – Clint Hurdle’s bullpen being tested in Robinson; Montour up 3-2 on West A. Monessen up 21-7 on Chartiers-Houston, Brentwood up 14-0 on Canevin.

‘Hounds trying to clinch home field advantage with a win, Spartans can clinch a playoff berth with a win.

Nicholson back out there for Gateway to begin the second half.

9:02 – Woodland Hills leading Peters Twp. 14-6; both teams are in with a win.

With apologies to Lanny, we have our first final score of the night: Jeannette defeats Waynesburg, 38-7, to clinch a home playoff game.

9:04 – McKeesport up 7-6 on Kiski, GCC up 14-6 on Yough. The former is still in the 3rd quarter, the latter is entering the 4th.

9:06 – Carmichaels up 50-14 on Bentworth after the 3rd. Central Valley now up 35-7 on the Bridgers in the 2nd half.

9:08 – Update: Carmichaels has actually defeated Bentworth, 56-21. 100th career win for John Menhart, as Terry Smith, here at Penn-Trafford, inches closer to his 99th. Still 35-0 Gateway, under 2:00 left in the 3rd.

9:10 – Sto-Rox defeats Laurel, 43-0, to clinch a playoff spot.

Franklin fumbles inside the 10-yard line of Penn-Trafford, which takes over with under a minute to go in a mercy-rule 3rd quarter.

9:13 – North Hills has taken an 11-10 lead over Pine-Richland midway through the 3rd; meanwhile, we’re at the end of the 3rd quarter here, with Gateway still up 35-0 on Penn-Trafford.

9:14 – McKeesport clinging to a 7-6 lead over Kiski after three quarters.

9:15 – Kittanning hanging onto a 10-7 lead over Valley at the end of the 3rd in New Ken. Ambridge cuts Central Valley’s lead to 35-14.

9:17 – Jefferson-Morgan beats Mapletown, 49-14, to keep its playoff hopes alive. Meanwhile, a great defensive play leads to a second defensive score by the Gators; Jeter rips the ball away, and pitches back to Parrish, who just stays in bounds with 9:24 left in the game. 42-0 Gateway, which recovers the ensuing kickoff, as Parrish celebrates his first TD of any kind in 2012.

9:20 – Lebo up 14-7 on Penn Hills, Hempfield now up 14-8 on Norwin; Central Valley defeats Ambridge, 35-14. Warriors staying home for round one of the playoffs (again).

9:21 – Woodson fumbles deep in Penn-Trafford territory. Three red-zone turnovers will be talked about in practice next week–bet the house on that–but hard for Smith to say many negative things after a performance as dominant as this one.

Bridgers, by the way, now need a Week 9 win over Blackhawk, and a New Castle win over Hopewell to make the playoffs.

9:24 – Great under-the-radar story in AAA: congrats to Jacque DeMatteo’s Hampton Talbots, who have defeated Franklin Regional, 17-13, and have a shot at the Greater Allegheny Conference championship.

9:25 – Clairton, in Clairton-esque fashion, gets win No. 55 in a row, defeating Serra 41-0.

9:26 – Hempfield up 21-8 over Norwin, North Hills has opened up an 18-10 lead over Pine-Richland.

9:28 – Valley up 14-10 on Kittanning; GCC beats Yough, 14-12, with some help from 5 Yough turnovers, 3 in the red zone.

9:29 – Woody High with a 25-8 lead over Peters in the 3rd.

9:30 – 3-run homer for McCutchen, West A leads Montour, 5-3.

9:31 – McKeesport now up 14-6 on Kiski early in the 4th.

9:33 – FINAL: Gateway 42, Penn-Trafford 0. Gators are your Foothills Conference champs. Check back later for Week 8 playoff clinchings…

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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