Top-ranked NA subdues Mt. Lebo
The first touchdown of the new season for the two-time defending WPIAL Class AAAA champions was perilously close to being a major blunder.
North Allegheny was just that mistake-prone during the first quarter of its season opener.
Strong-armed Mack Leftwich and the Tigers coolly settled down, settled in and pulled away for a characteristic easy win.
Leftwich passed for 304 yards and two touchdowns as Class AAAA No. 1 North Allegheny overcame fumbles on its first three possessions to win going away, 39-14, at No. 9 Mt. Lebanon on Friday night.
“You're going to have things that happen because you can't simulate a game in practice and the pressure's not on in scrimmages,” Tigers coach Art Walker said. “I was proud of our defense only allowing seven points on two short fields early, and as the game went on, I was very proud of our conditioning on a hot, steamy night.”
Tyler Roth had 159 passing yards and threw and ran for a touchdown each for the Blue Devils in Mike Melnyk's coaching debut.
North Allegheny lost its first two fumbles — the second of which led to a Roth 1-yard touchdown sneak — and its third one was potentially disastrous when Leftwich lost the ball just prior to crossing the goal line.
Teammate Zach Lyon fell on it, though. Jason Buchert kicked the extra point and the Tigers (1-0) never trailed again.
“We knew our offense, we were going to score points,” Leftwich said. “A seven-point deficit wasn't anything we couldn't overcome.”
North Allegheny was much more crisp after the sloppy start, scoring on five of its next six possessions. Leftwich threw touchdown passes of 13 yards to Elijah Zeise in the first half and 21 yards to Gregg Garrity on the Tigers' first drive of the third quarter.
In between was a Buchert 24-yard field goal with two seconds left in the first half.
“The message to the defense was shut them out in the second half and we win,” Walker said. “They did that.” By the time Leftwich ran for a 9-yard touchdown with 1:01 left in the third quarter, the rout was on. It gave North Allegheny a 32-14 lead.
DiCiantis's 7-yard touchdown run with 6:34 left gave him more than 100 yards for the game. He finished with 106 on 21 carries.
Leftwich completed 17 of 22 passes and had no interceptions.
Garrity had seven receptions for 116 yards and Zeise had 78 receiving yards on four catches despite not playing offense during the second half due to a shoulder injury.
Roth hit Troy Apke for a 57-yard touchdown pass with 4:26 left in the second quarter that briefly tied the game at 14. But the Blue Devils were outgained, 560-195. North Allegheny, which held a 24-10 edge in first downs, only had to punt one time.
“In the second half, you could just tell they were trying to wear us down — and they did,” Melnyk said. “We're just not there yet, you know? But I told our team, that's where we want to be at the end of the year.”