Kiski Area clinches playoff berth
With its playoff hopes on the line, Kiski Area coach Dave Heavner told his team it needed to show up.
It took a while, but his Cavaliers (4-5, 4-4) responded in a big way, producing a 41-14 blowout en route to earning a berth in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs for the first time since 2006.
While Heavner was pleased with the overall effort, it was junior Patrick Turner who stole the show, scoring four touchdowns, rushing for 100 yards and throwing for 33 yards out of the Wildcat formation.
“He's a player,” Heavner said. “We give him a lot of responsibility. He did it tonight on offense, defense and special teams. Whatever we ask of him he does and does it in a big way.”
Turner's backfield mate, freshman Lincoln Clayton, got Kiski going early by breaking away for a 42-yard scoring run. After a blocked punt, Turner responded with his first touchdown from a yard out.
“Those are two selfless kids,” Heavner said. “Lincoln (Clayton) got a little banged up early, and Patrick came in and filled the role well. This group sticks together.”
Kiski Area, which received solid contributions from a number of underclassmen, scored again right before the half on a 13-yard run by freshman quarterback Chad Kuhn.
“I don't know for sure,” Heavner said, “but there aren't many teams in Quad A starting a freshman running back and a freshman quarterback. They have a lot of talent, and that's why they're in there. They are playing at a high level and will only get better.”
Kiski Area built a 27-0 lead early in the third quarter on Turner's second touchdown — a 60-yard fumble return, which blew the game open. He followed it up minutes later with a 49-yard scoring run.
Latrobe (2-7, 1-7) had trouble moving the ball much of the night with the exception of two Robert Vasinko touchdown receptions from quarterback Logan Carns (49, 59 yards). Kiski held the Wildcats to just 38 first half yards and forced punts on 6 of Latrobe's first 9 possessions — the other three were forced turnovers.
“We just didn't execute,” Latrobe coach Ray Reitz said. “We just have to learn to compete. Kiski wanted it more tonight. You have to learn how to play hard, and until that happens … we just didn't get a real good effort tonight. It's on me.”
Much of Kiski's early success was due to field position resulting from special teams plays. The Cavaliers blocked two first-half punts, both of which resulted in quick scoring strikes.
“It was a huge part of the game,” Heavner said. “We saw some things on film and ran some new blocking schemes. It worked well tonight.”
Kiski will play an undetermined opponent next week in the first round of the playoffs. For Heavner, the matchup isn't important.
“I'm very proud of this team,” he said. “The last 20-some years haven't been very good to Kiski Area football. I give the credit to the seniors. They bought into a new coach and new systems and never complained. Whoever we get next week we get. This group will be ready to play and continue to get better.”
Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.