West Shamokin on verge of first WPIAL playoff appearance
In what has become a year of firsts for West Shamokin football, the Wolves added another to the list Saturday afternoon.
West Shamokin won a fourth game of the season for the time with a 27-8 victory over Wilkinsburg in an Eastern Conference encounter.
The win gave the Wolves a 4-2 record on the season and put the team on the brink of another first — a WPIAL playoff berth.
Another item West Shamokin followers aren't familiar with — a magic number — also is present.
The magic number for the Wolves to clinch the playoffs is one. Any West Shamokin victory or a Springdale loss puts the Wolves into the Class A playoff field.
The playoff-clinching party might have to be delayed, however, because West Shamokin plays a nonconference game Friday against South Side Beaver. Nonconference games aren't considered for playoff qualification.
At the same time, Springdale figures to be a heavy underdog against Avonworth, the conference's second place team.
But more than magic numbers, Saturday's victory was important because West Shamokin had to bounce back from consecutive routs by the conference's top two teams.
The Wolves lost to North Catholic, 60-27, and to Avonworth, 48-0, so Saturday's win was welcome after those overwhelming losses.
“We had one of the best weeks of practice we had all year,” said West Shamokin coach Jon McCullough. “Our kids were focused; they were ready to go. Those were two darn good football teams we played.”
“This feels great, it was a hard-fought win,” said junior Andrew Wingard. “It was hot out there and it was a grind-it-out type of win.”
Wilkinsburg's defense stopped West Shamokin drives into Tigers territory twice in the first half – once on an interception at the Wilkinsburg 2.
The Tigers got on the scoreboard first on a keeper by quarterback Ryan Cox followed by a pass to Douglas Jones for the two-point conversion.
The Wolves answered immediately with Zac Horner's 29-yard run on a quick opener up the middle. Wingard then ran in the two-pointer to tie the game at 8-8.
Later, Wingard's pass interception at the West Shamokin 22 closed out the first half.
But a little more than three minutes into the second half, sophomore Jarret Kintz picked off a pass at the Wolves 33 and raced 67 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
“My assignment was to take away the slant,” Kintz said. “We can't let them catch the ball and get more yardage. It's a good win for us. It puts us back on track and gets us where we want to go.”
The ensuing kickoff hit a Wiliknsburg up man in the chest and Zach Bowser recovered the loose ball to give the Wolves the ball on the Tigers 48.
Five plays later, Wingard ran a jet sweep left and dove into the end zone for the second West Shamokin touchdown in two minutes and 19 seconds.
“The interception by Kintz kind of woke us up,” McCullough said. “Wilkinsburg played a good game. They had us on the ropes and that got us going. The turnover on the kickoff was a great way for us to respond and put some distance there. It was anybody's ballgame to that point.”
West Shamokin scored an insurance touchdown late in the game when Alex Lasslo connected with Brady Cornman on an 81-yard pass play.
George Guido is a freelance writer.