West Shamokin makes history, clinches playoff spot with win
West Shamokin is in uncharted waters.
The upstart Wolves clinched their first WPIAL postseason berth with a 36-6 win over Eastern Conference foe Leechburg on Friday night at Jack E. Boyer Field.
A team once associated with losing streaks finally has broken through.
“It's great. I'm just proud of these boys because it's all about them,” West Shamokin coach Jon McCullough said. “This group wanted to turn it around.”
West Shamokin has been around for 13 years — formed by the merger of Dayton and Shannock Valley in 2000 — but never had qualified for the playoffs. The program is one year removed from snapping a WPIAL record 46-game losing streak.
“The kids knew (what was on the line),” McCullough said. “We had a good week of practice because Leechburg is a good football team. They were going to come ready to play.”
The Wolves (6-2, 5-2) got on the board just 50 seconds into the game. On the second play from scrimmage, junior running back Andrew Wingard scored on a 65-yard run, spinning out of a tackle in the final 5 yards. He finished the game with 125 yards on seven carries.
Junior running back Zac Horner faked the hold on the ensuing extra point and ran in the 2-point conversion for an early 8-0 lead. Horner rushed for 111 yards on 15 carries.
Early in the second, West Shamokin struck again. Junior quarterback Alex Lasslo scored on a 5-yard keeper. He tacked on the extra point for a 15-0 lead that West Shamokin took into halftime.
Leechburg (2-6, 2-5) had its offense slowed before it took the field, losing senior quarterback Alex Sipolino on the West Shamokin 2-point conversion. He returned for a few plays but missed the rest of the game. There was no immediate word on the nature of his injury.
Sipolino's loss stunned the Blue Devils' offense, which had been rolling the past couple weeks.
“We lost one our physical and emotional leaders on the team,” Leechburg coach Mark George said. “That put us down for a while. I definitely believe it took some steam out of our offense.”
By the time the shock had worn off, Leechburg found itself in a hole.
The senior running back tandem of Alex Kalmar and Kris Smith couldn't duplicate their 170-plus yard rushing performances of a week ago, but Kalmar had 119 yards on 19 carries, including Leechburg's only score for the game. Smith added 96 yards on 12 carries.
“This West Shamokin team is riding high,” George said. “They've achieved some things that they haven't achieved since they started this football program.”
West Shamokin flashed that emotion in the second half, breaking the game open on two Lasslo TD passes: 63 yards to Brady Cornman and 14 yards to Jarrett Kintz.
Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.