No. 4 Montour upsets conference rival South Fayette in WPIAL Class 4A semifinals
For the second straight week, the Montour Spartans staged a dramatic, fourth-quarter comeback.
This time, Montour was rewarded with a trip to Heinz Field next Saturday, where they will play two-time defending champion Thomas Jefferson for the WPIAL Class 4A championship.
The fourth-seeded Spartans scored three touchdowns in the final quarter to shock No. 1 South Fayette, 35-27, in a WPIAL semifinal contest Friday at West Allegheny Stadium. The Lions finished at 10-1.
Senior quarterback Kavon Mormon rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 212 yards. He completed his first seven passes early in the game.
Down 27-14 to start the fourth quarter, Montour (9-2) tallied three touchdowns in a decisive, 5-minute, 37-second span.
“We said at halftime that we wanted to go down fighting, just like we did against New Castle,” Mormon said. “It takes so much guts for the glory; I'm so proud of my teammates.”
The Spartans had erased a 21-point deficit in the opening round against New Castle on Nov. 3 and won 35-31.
Friday's comeback was spurred by two lengthy pass interceptions from Brandon Lipford.
With Montour down 27-21, the senior defensive back picked off a Drew Saxton pass at the 15 and returned the ball 81 yards to the South Fayette 4. Lipford scored on a 2-yard sweep, and Nolan Hunter booted the extra point to make it 28-27 Montour.
With the Lions trying to pull the game out late, Lipford again picked off Saxton at the Spartans' 19 and returned it to the South Fayette 5, where Mormon scored on the following play.
“We prepared for this after losing to them in the final game of the regular season,” Lipford said. “We had a game plan, we had to execute it, and we came through in the clutch.”
Down by eight, the Lions lost the ball on downs at their 43 and Montour was able to run out the clock.
Montour, in the second half, shut out a Lions team that was averaging 42 points per game.
“Obviously, we didn't play well in the first half, and we knew we had to stop them in the first series of the second half,” Spartans coach Lou Cerro said. “We finally got where we needed and momentum swung. Our defense played so well in the second half, and I'm so proud of them. We said if they can't score, they can't win, and that's what happened.”
Montour looked like it would score early, taking the opening kickoff deep in South Fayette territory. But Noah Plack, who had a spectacular game on both sides of the ball for the Lions, swiped the ball away from Ronnie Stevenson at the South Fayette 4.
Plack caught two second-quarter scoring passes from Saxton for 16 and 7 yards.
The first was set up by a fumble recovery by Lions lineman Jake Walker.
Saxton passed for 202 yards in the first half as South Fayette appeared to have control of the game.
Saxton finished his career with 7,445 yards, starting the night fifth all-time in the WPIAL. He threw just five interceptions all season, but three on Friday.
“We had some opportunities to punch one in and open that game up, but we let them just hang around,” Lions coach Joe Rossi said. “They're a good football team. They found a way to come back. We just didn't make enough plays.”
Plack, in his Lions' finale, caught 10 passes for 154 yards.
Now, Montour will try for a WPIAL title in a third different classification, after earning championships in Classes 2A and 3A earlier.
The Spartans defeated Knoch in 2011 in their last trip to Heinz Field.
George Guido is a freelance writer.