On any given Friday or Saturday night, any team in the state can beat another. Three of the top five teams in the state can bear witness to that adage after this weekend.
St. Joseph's Prep, Gateway, and Downingtown East - ranked third, fourth, and fifth in the state by PaPreps and universally hailed as three of the top teams in the state across the commonwealth - all lost playoff games this weekend. Every single one was considered a state title contender, but every single one will be spectators for the championships in Hershey. At least St. Joseph's Prep made it to its district title game (for more on the loss, read below). For Gateway and Downingtown East, it was another early exit that has players, coaches, and fans in disbelief.
In some districts, seeding means more than others. District 1 is where seeding can be tossed out the window. That said, while it's happened before, a 16-seed beating a 1-seed isn't common. That's what happened Friday night, though, as Downingtown East fell 38-35 to No. 16 Wissahickon.
In a season where Downingtown East rode its offense to a 10-0 record, it was its defense that failed in the playoffs. Wissahickon ran for 305 yards, with all five of their touchdowns coming on the ground. The ground attack centered around Dave Stellato, who picked up 157 yards and scored four of the touchdowns. He also was the primary force as Wissahickon drove downfield to set up a 22-yard field goal from Dan McDonough to win as time expired.
Downingtown East tried to match every score, and for a while, they did. Michigan State-bound Jay Harris scored three different ways, hauling in a 43-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Lauletta, returning a kick 65-yards for a score, and tying the game at 35 with a 5-yard run. But when the time came, Downingtown East's defense couldn't stop Wissahickon's ground game, and the Cougars are out early once again.
While Downingtown East was losing to Wissahickon, in the western corner of the state Gateway met its match in Woodland Hills. Gateway has been lauded for a host of Division I talent, many of them juniors, and the Gators' only loss this year came to defending WPIAL champion North Allegheny. If anyone was going to unseat North Allegheny, many though it'd be Gateway.
But the Gators once again couldn't get to Heinz Field. Woodland Hills controlled Gateway's offense in a 17-14 win that may have been the last game Terry Smith coaches at Gateway. Smith's status has been murky since a controversial move by the school board to eliminate his athletic director position in a cost-cutting move.
On the field, Woodland Hills kept Gateway's offense off the field by rushing for 201 yards. The Woodland Hills defense was even more impressive, holding Gateway to negative yards rushing. Gateway scored all 14 points in the first half, and a desperation heave by Thomas Woodson was picked off to end the game.
Because of that performance, it'll be Woodland Hills taking on Upper St. Clair, not Gateway.
Saturday's Philadelphia Catholic League final between St. Joseph's Prep and La Salle was one of those games where it was a shame that someone had to lose. Two of the better teams in the state, the game was marked as a potential changing of the guard in the PCL. La Salle was building a lengthy league title streak, but St. Joseph's had knocked the Explorers off in the regular season. Would Saturday's rematch follow suit?
In a word, no. But La Salle keeping its crown didn't come without drama. Ryan Winslow's extra point following a 5-yard touchdown catch by Sean Coleman in overtime propelled La Salle to a 28-27 win and onto the next round in the state playoffs.
The first game between these two was marked by turnovers. This game was marked by big plays and clutch performances. None was bigger than Coleman, who caught all four touchdown passes from Chris Kane to keep La Salle in the game.
St. Joseph's Prep did its best to keep pace. Down 14-0 at the half, Prep got a 1-yard run from QB Chris Martin to cut the deficit in half. Martin then tossed a 37-yard pass to Olamide Zaccheaus to tie the game in the third quarter. Coleman's third touchdown of the game gave La Salle a 21-14 lead, but on the ensuing kickoff, Zaccheaus took the return back 90 yards to tie it back up.
Prep missed a long field goal to try and win it in regulation. Zaccheaus scored on a 10-yard run to open the overtime, but Prep missed the extra point, setting up Coleman's game-winner. Coleman ultimately caught 14 passes for 139 yards. Kane, hobbled by a sore ankle the last few weeks, was splendid, completing 31-of-47 passes for 328 yards.
La Salle will take on Frankford for the District 12 title, with the winner awaiting the winner of the District 2/4/11 subregional.
EARLY EXIT FOR EASTON
Another team that spent a considerable amount of time in the PaPreps rankings this year was Easton. Though the Red Rovers had recently exited on the heels of a loss to Whitehall, Easton was still considered a favorite to win the District 2/4/11 subregional.
Parkland avenged a Week 2 loss by blowing Easton out 41-10 to send Easton home early. The game was tied at 10 at halftime, but Parkland scored 31 unanswered to complete the rout and extend its winning streak to nine games. It was a reversal of the previous meeting, where Easton scored 28 straight points in the second half before holding on for the win.
There was no comeback this time. Parkland held Easton to just 211 yards of offense, and Easton did not have Shane Simpson available. Jared Elder had 18 carries for 123 yards to lead Parkland.
Archbishop Wood RB Andrew Guckin ran 24 times for 281 yards and four touchdowns in a 36-16 win over Monsignor Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast as Wood captured the PCL Class AAA title...Allentown Central Catholic RB Colin McDermott had a more pedestrian 120 yards after a couple big yardage games, but the senior back still scored five touchdowns as the Vikings beat Blue Mountain 49-6 to advance to the District 11 Class AAA championship game...Schuylkill Valley QB Kyle Beissel threw for four touchdowns and ran for two more in a 42-21 win over Berks Catholic. Beissel completed 10-of-19 passes for 223 yards and ran for 29 yards...Lancaster Catholic RB Roman Clay ran for 354 yards and scored four touchdowns on 29 carries as the Crusaders topped Hershey 32-14.
Pennridge RB Mike Class carried 21 times for 292 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-14 win over Abington...Bishop McDevitt WR Brian Lemelle caught 11 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-13 win over Lampeter-Strasburg. His big night was possible because of a bigger one by QB Alec Werner. The senior completed 18-of-22 passes for 374 yards and three scores...South Fayette QB Brett Brumbaugh completed 20-of-30 passes for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 35-21 win over Beaver Falls...Clairton RB Tyler Boyd carried 16 times for 288 yards and four touchdowns in a 39-0 win over Brentwood...Thomas Jefferson QB Joe Carroll completed 16-of-29 passes for 396 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 24-21 win over Franklin Regional.
Clairton's winning streak is at 58 games. One more win and they'll tie the state record of 59, set by Central Bucks West...Spring-Ford's 43-27 win over Garnett Valley marked the program's first win in the District 1 playoffs in program history...Pleasant Valley's 24-21 win over Stroudsburg marked the first district playoff win for the program since 1994...University Prep QB Akil Young completed 30-of-46 passes for 462 yards in a 47-38 win over Somerset. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Young's performance is believed to now be the most single-game passing yards in both WPIAL and Pittsburgh City League history. Young threw for six touchdowns and his 462 yards are the second most ever in a PIAA playoff game.
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