Gateway set for rumble with McKeesport for Quad East title
Gateway head football coach Donnie Militzer said last week's last-minute 35-34 homecoming loss to Quad East rival Penn-Trafford left a sour taste in the mouths of the players and coaches.
But, he added, there wasn't time to sit and stew over the first loss in eight games this season with McKeesport coming to Antimarino Stadium on Thursday.
For the Gators, the game with the Tigers is for all the marbles in the Quad East, and the loss to the Warriors didn't ruin Gateway's chances to take home the conference crown.
“It's exciting,” Gateway senior center and defensive tackle Joe Robak said. “It's for the conference title and a home playoff game. There's a lot on the line. We're going to be on TV, so everyone is pumped up and ready to go at it.”
Kickoff on Thursday is a special 7 p.m. start, and the game will be broadcast live on Root Sports because there is no Penguins game.
“We came in Saturday morning, worked out the kinks and got a good workout in,” Robak said.
“The loss is in the past. Now, we're looking ahead.”
Gateway can finish anywhere from first to third in the final conference standings.
The Gators are 6-1 in the conference, while McKeesport is 7-0, and Penn-Trafford and Hempfield both are 4-2.
The Warriors and Spartans meet on Friday.
If Gateway wins, it takes the conference crown based on the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Tigers. If the Gators lose and Penn-Trafford beats Hempfield, Gateway would end up third.
Gateway would be second if it loses and the Warriors lose to Hempfield. In that scenario, the Gators and Spartans both would be 5-2, but Gateway beat Hempfield, 22-16, at Antimarino Stadium earlier this season.
But, Militzer said, the only scenario they are focusing on is the one that has them coming out on top against McKeesport.
“They realized they let an opportunity for an undefeated regular season slip away, but they also realize they have a lot in front of them,” Militzer said.
“One of the coaches said this game (with McKeesport) has affected the conference title the past four years. We are going to go in, give it our best shot and try to win the conference.”
McKeesport turned back to a familiar face in the offseason, as legendary head coach George Smith came back to coaching after a three-year hiatus.
He picked up his 200th career win in September, and with the famed flexbone option offense, the Tigers have racked up eight victories.
Last week, McKeesport defeated Kiski Area, 34-12, behind the running of Mikell Moore, who rushed for 79 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries.
Moore has rushed for almost 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Running back Allen Wright and quarterback David Queen also are running threats in the flexbone. Eight Tigers have at least 20 carries this season.
The Tigers outgunned the Cavaliers on the ground, 314-38.
“They are impressive on both sides of the ball,” Militzer said. “They are big at every position. They've taken it to everyone they've played. Against that flexbone, you have to be focused on every single play. The one play you fall asleep on is the one play they break.”
Gateway defeated McKeesport, 21-6, last year en route to an 8-0 conference record.
The Gators also pounded the Tigers, 38-0, in 2011, but McKeesport got the better of Gateway in 2010, 28-14, and won the conference crown with a 6-0 mark.
Gateway will go up against a familiar face in former Gators student-athlete Jason Chavis.
Chavis, a 300-pound lineman, transferred from Gateway and now is on the McKeesport offensive line.
Thursday also is senior night, and the Gators seniors will be honored in a ceremony before the game.
“In their four years, (the seniors) have been through a lot, and they've handled it with class,” Militzer said.
“They welcomed me with open arms. They wanted to win a championship from the start. I love them to death, and we are looking forward to honoring them on Thursday.”
Senior quarterback Jimmy Moore and senior wideout Montae Nicholson set a pair of records in Friday's loss to Penn-Trafford.
Moore and Nicholson connected on touchdown passes of 82, 44 and 66 yards, and Nicholson finished with 252 yards receiving, surpassing the previous single-game record of 204 he had set earlier in the season.
Nicholson's three TD catches also tied a Gateway single-game record.
Moore threw for 389 yards in the game, breaking the previous singe-game passing record of 354 set by current Carnegie Mellon senior quarterback Rob Kalkstein in 2006.
He threw a fourth touchdown to Anthony Davis and tied the single-game mark for touchdown passes he and Kalkstein jointly owned.
Moore also tossed four touchdown passes in Gateway's win over Connellsville in September.
Other players are close to breaking records.
Senior inside linebacker Zaihe Regus has 121 tackles this season and stands 10 shy of Dorian Bell's 2007 record of 131 with at least two more games to go.
“I think about (the record) a little bit,” Regus said. “It would be cool and an honor to break (Bell's) record. But, as long as we're winning, the numbers don't matter. Winning is the important thing.”
Senior Delvon Randall has 35 catches this season, and Nicholson has 31. The school record for receptions in a season is 42 set by Corey Brown in 2008.
While the Gateway passing game has been highly successful this season, Regus has done his part as the leading yard-gainer on the ground.
Through eight games, he has a team best 60 carries for 276 yards and four touchdowns.
He scored on a 1-yard run with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter against Penn-Trafford to break a 27-27 tie.
It was a lead the Warriors would overcome with 16 seconds left on an 18-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion.
“I really don't care what play the coaches call as long as it helps put points on the board,” Regus said.
“I don't really care who is scoring. If I get called to come out of the backfield or stay home and block, that's what I will do. I will carry the football when they want me to.
“If everybody focuses on their job and does their assignment, the team is going to be successful. Everybody has been working hard and doing what they can do to help the team win.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.