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Late stand lifts Sto-Rox past Neshannock

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 10:27 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Sto-Rox's Javell Kirkland leaps over Neshannock's Eli Owens on Thurday, Sept. 12, 2013, at Sto-Rox High School.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Sto-Rox's Javell Kirkland beats Neshannock's Jeff Sanflippo for a 37-yard touchdown in the second quarter Thurday, Sept. 12, 2013, at Sto-Rox.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Neshannock running back Eli Owens has rushed for over 1,300 yards this season and scored a touchdown in last year's playoff game against Monessen..

After three quarters of long runs and even longer passes, the difference was only a few feet.

Facing fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Neshannock's Gianni Oliva was stopped short of the end zone with 4 seconds left, and Sto-Rox escaped with a 34-31 victory Thursday night at home in McKees Rocks.

Neshannock had four running plays inside the 6. On first down, Oliva gained 4 yards. On second, he lost a yard. On third, a fumbled snap cost Neshannock another yard. An offsides penalty by Sto-Rox moved the ball to the 2, where Oliva had that last chance.

Neshannock covered 64 yards in 15 plays but finished a yard short.

This Big Seven matchup was a one-point game a year ago. Neshannock won 35-34 at home on an 8-yard end-around with 17.9 seconds left.

This was just as close.

“We were hoping at the end that the same thing didn't happen as last year,” Sto-Rox coach Dan Bradley said. “But this year we were fortunate enough and tough enough to keep them out of the end zone.”

Sto-Rox's Lenny Williams completed 14 of 26 passes for 289 yards and five touchdowns, with three to wideout Javelle Kirkland. A 53-yarder to Kirkland with 5:08 left was the winning touchdown.

Kirkland also had scoring catches of 11 and 37 yards. All three of his receptions were touchdowns. Mallory Clayborn had a 45-yard touchdown catch, and Brendan Blair added a 13-yarder.

No. 2 Sto-Rox (3-0) and No. 4 Neshannock (2-1) were considered among the best teams in Class A. This effort only solidified that notion. They combined for nine touchdowns, including a 66-yard fake punt by Neshannock quarterback Ernie Burkes. The third-quarter fake on fourth-and-12 gave the Lancers a 31-28 lead.

Burkes rushed for 150 yards on 17 carries, and tailback Eli Owens added 128 yards on 22 carries.

“They ran the ball with a lot of success,” Bradley said. “For us to be able to stop them in a short-yardage situation on four plays was a great accomplishment.”

Two short touchdown runs by Oliva helped Neshannock claim a 23-22 halftime lead. Both 3-yard runs came in the second quarter, when the teams combined for 28 points.

Neshannock had led 9-0. The Lancers' first points were scored when Ralph Dovidio tackled Williams in the end zone for a safety on the first play of Sto-Rox's second possession. An errant snap had forced the Sto-Rox quarterback to chase it backward. A 6-yard touchdown catch by Steven Jeffries followed on the next possession with 3:37 left in the first quarter.

The 45-yard touchdown catch by Clayborn pulled Sto-Rox to within 9-8 with 1:56 left in the first. The touchdown started a back-and-forth battle where the teams alternated almost every other score.

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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