Alert play lifts Riverview to win over Leechburg
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A little deception by Riverview's Tim Wagner went a long way Saturday afternoon. With the Raiders trailing in the fourth period, Wagner let a Leechburg punt bounce and appeared content to let Blue Devils defenders down the ball. Instead, Wagner suddenly picked up the ball at his 45 and raced to the Leechburg 25, setting up a short scoring drive that allowed Riverview to take the lead for good as the Raiders eventually defeated Leechburg, 27-19, at Riverside Park.
The Blue Devils had just stopped Riverview at their 3 moments earlier. “I was yelling, ‘Let it go, let it go,' ” Riverview coach Todd Massack said. “Then once he got it, I was yelling, ‘Go, go, go!' Normally we tell the guys to stay away from the ball. In that case, all right, we'll take it.”
“I saw it bouncing, and I had a lot of room in front of me,” Wagner said. “I thought if I could get a good bounce, I might take it. The third bounce, I thought it was now or never.”
“We tell these young men all the time, you can't ease up out there, even for a couple of seconds,” Blue Devils coach Mark George said.
Leechburg was leading, 19-13, at that point after a 30-yard fumble recovery return by sophomore tackle Jordan Cominos.
Riverview took the kickoff and drove to the Leechburg 1, aided by three Blue Devils penalties. On fourth down, Raiders quarterback Jason Anthony bobbled the snap, and Leechburg broke through and took over at the 3.
“I thought we had some pretty good plays on defense throughout the day,” George said. “It's just that in the second half, we couldn't string enough together. But I'm proud of the way they played.”
On the second play following Wagner's unexpected punt return, Tyler Nigro passed to senior wide receiver Klayton Hayden for a 23-yard touchdown with 7:45 left.
After another Leechburg punt, Vinnie Piccolino added an insurance touchdown with 2:05 to go to put the Raiders in front by eight points.
Leechburg didn't pick up a first down in the second half until there was 7:20 left in the fourth period.
Things were different in the first half. Leechburg moved the ball well with three sustained offensive drives — two resulting in touchdowns by Kris Smith and Joe Strellec — and another that advanced to the Riverview 7 before the Raiders held. Strellec had 98 yards rushing.
“There were different parts of the game where you can have the analogy of two boxers in the ring.,” Massack said. “There's going to be ups and downs, but you've just got to keep fighting through those things, and that's how the game went.”
Piccolino had 152 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
“Vinnie's nickname is Bulldog,” Massack said. “There's a reason; he's a tough kid. He does a great job for us offensively and defensively. “
Riverview (2-5, 2-4) leads the all-time series against Leechburg, 26-8-2. The loss eliminated Leechburg (1-6, 1-5) from the WPIAL playoff race.
The Raiders play at Apollo-Ridge on Friday. Leechburg is at home against West Shamokin.
George Guido is a freelance writer
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