South Allegheny beats McGuffey for fifth win in a row
South Allegheny players finished their postgame huddle after their 41-14 Century Conference victory over McGuffey with one word.
Now, after a five-game winning streak, the Gladiators are a win next week over Keystone Oaks — and a little help — away from clinching the school's first postseason berth since 1986.
“This is a veteran team and they know what they're capable of,” South Allegheny coach Pat Monroe said. “They want to clean it up and they want to get it straight.”
South Allegheny (5-1, 4-1) held McGuffey (2-4, 1-4) to 77 total yards in the first half as it built a 21-0 halftime lead.
James Duchi did rack up 165 yards and a late fourth-quarter touchdown for the Highlanders, but 110 came in the second half after the outcome was all but decided.
“You have to compete in the beginning of the game, and no disrespect to Pat, but there are two teams in this league (Seton-La Salle and South Fayette) that are head-and-shoulders above everybody, and we're not in their zip code,” McGuffey coach Ed Dalton said. “We didn't play, we didn't compete and they came and took it to us.”
South Allegheny running back Brandon Murn carried eight times for 89 yards and two first-half touchdowns but had only one third-quarter carry before he was taken out due to a lower body injury.
“He was dinged a little bit and we were up, and it was completely my call,” Monroe said. “He had a little tape on it and went back, but I told him it wasn't necessary at this spot because we were up. He's a special ball player, and there was no point taking a risk at that point.”
It certainly wasn't the mistake-free game South Allegheny wanted, as the team committed a pair of critical turnovers deep in McGuffey territory that cost the it early points. The Gladiators also blew another opportunity when they recovered a Highlanders fumble on a kickoff, but turned it over on downs at the 18.
“We left a few on the field and we went a little bit backwards because we left a few on the field against South Park two weeks ago, but we cleaned it up last week against Burgettstown,” Monroe said. “We're still working on getting better, but we just missed a couple of things that would have made it easier for us.”
The South Allegheny offense did enough damage to make it an early rout, though. Keaton McClelland converted a first and goal on the Gladiators first possession into a 3-yard touchdown to open the scoring 7:37 into the game, then Murn converted a McGuffey fumble when he ripped off a 25-yard scoring jaunt on the final play of the first quarter to help South Allegheny to a 14-0 lead.
After a Josh Rountree interception set South Allegheny up at the McGuffey 17, Murn ran for 16 of the 17 yards, including the final 5, to give the Gladiators a 21-0 lead with 6:53 remaining in the first half.
McGuffey did not get rolling until after Jake Seabright intercepted a Dustin Anderson pass at the goal line with 4:08 left in the second quarter. On the drive, the Highlanders picked up their initial first down of the game and moved the ball all the way to the South Allegheny 9.
That was where the drive stalled. After a pair of runs picked up nothing, a bad snap pushed McGuffey all the way back to its 26 and the team turned it over on downs as time expired.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.