Jeannette football scores late for WPIAL quarterfinals victory
Seth Howard wasn't on the Jeannette team at the start of the season.
But Jeannette coach Roy Hall was glad he joined after the first game.
With Jeannette needing a spark Friday in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals at Peters Township, Hall went to Howard, and he delivered.
Howard rushed for one score and threw the winning touchdown pass to Isaiah Winters with 54 seconds left to rally No. 3 Jeannette to a heart-thumping 30-26 victory over No. 6 Rochester.
The Jayhawks face No. 2 Clairton in the semifinals Friday.
The Jeannette Jayhawks take the field at the start of their #WPIAL Class A quarterfinal against Rochester tonight at Peters Twp. Complete #TribHSSN coverage: https://t.co/DDK9LPuuoC via @Hornerfoto1 pic.twitter.com/R9TLpR1wUK— Trib HS Insider (@TribHSInsider) November 11, 2017
Rochester dominated until about midway through the third quarter, building an 18-7 lead behind a strong running attack.
But Jeannette (11-1) never quit. The defense came up with a few key stops, and Howard led the Jayhawks to two scoring drives during the final 7:35 after Rochester took a 26-15 lead.
"Seth came in and did a great job," Hall said. "We knew he would, and we're glad he came out for the team.
"We had to come up with some big stops when we had to, and we had to move the ball and we did."
After Rochester junior tackle Kaden Mersing recovered a fumble by Caleb Collins in the end zone, Hall inserted Howard and Jeannette's offense found its groove.
Howard used his legs and arm to move the ball down the field and scored on a 9-yard run to trim the Rochester lead to 26-23 with 5:08 left.
Jeannette's defense forced a three-and-out, and a short punt set up Jeannette at the Rams 42.
A personal foul penalty against Rochester moved the ball to the 29. After a hold pushed Jeannette back to the 35, lineman Ian Smith took a lateral and rambled to the Rochester 24.
After Jeannette was flagged for a motion penalty, Jeannette was faced with fourth-and-10 when Howard tossed a strike to Winters for the winner.
"We found our groove, and we have to keep it going," Hall said. "We're not a one-man team. We have a lot of players who stepped up."
Jeannette got on the board quickly by taking advantage of good field position after a poor punt.
Sophomore running back Imani Sanders scored from the 3 to complete an eight-play, 35-yard drive for a 7-0 lead.
Then Jeannette went three-and-out on its next five possessions.
Meanwhile, Rochester, despite throwing two interceptions, got two touchdown runs by senior quarterback Mahlik Strozier for a 12-7 lead at halftime.
Rochester's Noah Whiteleather carries for a first down against Jeannette during a #WPIAL Class A quarterfinal. Complete #TribHSSN coverage: https://t.co/DDK9LPuuoC via @Hornerfoto1 pic.twitter.com/Bu20GXOgyc— Trib HS Insider (@TribHSInsider) November 11, 2017
Jeannette was its own worst enemy in first half. A dead ball personal foul penalty turned a third-and-1 into a third-and-15 at one point, and Robert Kennedy struggled throwing the ball in the first two quarters. He was intercepted twice by Rochester senior linebacker Caleb Collins, the second coming at the Rochester 5.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.