Gateway football prepares for Connellsville after tough opener
The Gateway varsity football team dominated Latrobe in a series of recent matchups, including a 61-6 pounding of the Wildcats at Antimarino Stadium last year.
But last Friday's opener at Latrobe was anything but a cakewalk for the Gators.
Miscues, including turnovers and penalties, as well as the offensive play of elusive Wildcats quarterback Logan Carns, put Gateway on its heels at times.
The Gators trailed 13-7 at halftime, but were able to turn things around and eke out a 22-20 victory.
Gateway wraps up preparation Thursday for its home opener with Quad East foe Connellsville on Friday, at 7:30 p.m., and head coach Donnie Militzer said his players want to prove something against the Falcons.
“I still think there is some anger from Friday,” he said.
“Yes, they are excited that (the Connellsville) game is at home, but they are more excited to go out there and show that they aren't going to make the same mistakes they did against Latrobe. I don't think it would matter if they played Friday in someone's backyard. They really want to get out there and erase what happened last week and show what kind of team Gateway truly is.”
Militzer said Latrobe came out with a lot of energy and gave Gateway its best shot.
“We have to expect that every week,” he said.
Connellsville is eyeing a return trip to the WPIAL playoffs. The Falcons missed the postseason last year after qualifying in 2011.
The Wing-T offense Connellsville employs is built around third-year starting quarterback Jade Maher, who threw for more than 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
The Falcons have an experienced offensive line, as four starters are back from a year ago.'
“(The Wing-T) can be confusing at times with the misdirection and the ball handling,” Militzer said.
“We have to be ready for that. They definitely have some athletes who can beat you.”
Last week against Latrobe, Gateway overcame four turnovers, 13 penalties and Wildcats quarterback Logan Carns.
“We were making too many mistakes,” Militzer said.
“If you commit penalties and turn the ball over, it's going to be a close football game. It's as simple as that.”
Senior Delvon Randall scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter, and senior Montae Nicholson returned a fumble 16 yards for a TD.
Those two scores put Gateway up for good, 19-13, and junior Kevin Fitchwell added some insurance with a 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
“We just started paying more attention to details,” Militzer said. “Even in the second half, we had guys cramping up, and we had to make adjustments.”
A fumble recovery also set up the Randall touchdown, and Gateway forced four total second-half turnovers.
“We told them at halftime that everything was there. It just came down to cutting out the mistakes and focus,” Militzer said.
“(The fumble recoveries) were huge momentum shifts. Our defense really stepped up in the second half, and that was with a lot of subs because of the cramping.”
Gateway had two touchdowns called back on penalties, as well as a pair of 30-yard pass plays.
Senior quarterback Jimmy Moore completed 14 of 27 passes for 194 yards.
He was intercepted three times, but he also connected with fellow senior Ricky Rogers on a 49-yard touchdown strike in the first half.
Carns did some damage for Latrobe with his feet, as he rushed for 136 yards on 22 attempts. He accounted for all 20 of the Wildcats' points on touchdown runs of 7, 72 and 6 yards.
“We expected that from Carns,” Militzer said.
“I though they might be able to score some points on us. He's a great football player, and he can keep a game close on his own.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.