McKeesport topples Hempfield in Smith's return to sideline
McKeesport gave usually stoic coach George Smith something to smile about Friday night in his return to the Tigers' sideline after a three-year absence.
Mikell Moore rushed for 161 yards, and Seanlou Gilmore added 103 as visiting McKeesport beat Hempfield, 24-10, in a WPIAL Quad East Conference opener, avenging a stinging home loss last year.
It was the 198th career victory for Smith, who began his second stint with McKeesport and 29th season overall.
“We're not there yet,” Smith said, “but if we keep at it, we're hoping we can get there. They did OK tonight. They listened and didn't complain.”
Quarterback David Queen scored twice, and Moore added another touchdown for McKeesport (1-0, 1-0), which returned to running Smith's trademark option flexbone offense that had made his programs so successful over the years.
McKeesport, which attempted just four passes, won PIAA titles under Smith in 1994 and 2005 and became playoff threats almost on an annual basis. With Smith out of the picture, the Tigers were eliminated from the WPIAL postseason in the first round each of the past three years.
“We didn't run the offense very well tonight. We had to get away from the triple option,” Smith said. “Back to the drawing board until we get it right.”
The Tigers apparently did something right but were fortunate to escape with a seemingly easy victory. Joey DeFloria rushed for 102 yards and returned a kickoff 77 yards for Hempfield (0-1, 0-1), but he also had two second-half touchdowns nullified by penalties.
“That was tough for us to recover from,” Hempfield coach Rich Bowen said. “We were right there, but now, we've got to move on from this and look toward next week.”
McKeesport led, 14-7, at the break, and neither team scored in the third quarter. DeFloria's 36-yard touchdown pass from Ty George was called back because of a personal foul, and his 53-yard run was wiped out by a holding call, leading to John Domit's 26-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, pulling Hempfield within 14-10.
McKeesport later added a safety to increase the lead to 16-10, when George was called for intentional grounding while passing from the end zone.
“It was a great effort by our guys in the second half,” Bowen said. “We made some nice adjustments at halftime.”
Queen's 1-yard touchdown run gave McKeesport a 6-0 lead on the final play of the first quarter before DeFloria returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards as Hempfield took a 7-6 lead.
Queen, adapting in his first season leading McKeesport's complicated option offense, added an 11-yard score to put the Tigers ahead to stay, 14-7. The senior finished with 97 yards rushing and was 0-for-4 passing, all in the first half.
After Domit's field goal cut the Hempfield deficit to six points, Moore, who was among a number of players hampered by second-half cramps, iced the victory with a 15-yard TD run with 4:14 remaining.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.