Gateway hopes for fresh start in playoffs
The Gateway football team is hoping for a fresh start Friday when it hosts North Hills at Antimarino Stadium in a WPIAL Quad-A first-round playoff game.
The Gators struggled in beating Norwin, 13-6, in week seven after a big 35-32 victory over North Allegheny the week before.
Gateway then suffered a last-second loss to Penn-Trafford, 35-34, in week eight and was routed by rival McKeesport, 49-12, in the regular-season finale last week.
The Gators, the seventh-seed in the Quad-A bracket and third team from the Quad East, take a 7-2 overall record into the game with North Hills.
“The NA game was such an emotional win, and I think it took a lot out of us,” Militzer said.
“There maybe was a little bit of a hangover from that in the Norwin game. The last couple of weeks, we just haven't played well. The kids are anxious to get out there and prove themselves.”
North Hills (5-4) is hoping to bounce back from a 31-0 loss to rival North Allegheny last week. The Indians upended Pine-Richland, 7-0, the week before.
“We have shown that if we come ready to play with our ‘A' game, we can play with anybody,” Militzer said.
“We can also be beaten by anybody if we don't do the things we are capable of doing. It's going to depend on how we prepare and the mindset with have on Friday.
“The kids are pretty excited, and they've been pretty focused in practice.”
Gateway is in the same quadrant of the bracket as No. 2 Pittsburgh Central Catholic, and the Gators and Vikings would meet in the quarterfinals if both take care of business Friday.
“When the brackets come out, you tend to look at potential matchups in the next round, but we can't worry about that,” Militzer said.
“Our total focus right now is on North Hills. We've had too many scares this year to think we can look past anyone.”
North Hills, under the direction of first-year head coach Pat Carey, has relied on its running game in recent weeks after losing starting quarterback Jake Bruder to a serious injury in September.
“That is something that has given us problems the past couple of weeks,” Militzer said.
“(The North Hills running game) is something we've really concerned ourselves with.”
The Gators and Indians have clashed in some big playoff games over the years.
Perhaps the most famous ones came in the mid 1980s when the teams battled for the WPIAL Quad A title two years in a row.
In 1985, Gateway and North Hills played to a 0-0 tie, and the Gators scored a dramatic 7-6 win in the championship contest at Three Rivers Stadium one year later.
Gateway topped North Hills, 6-2, in the quarterfinals of the 1984 Quad-A playoffs, and the Gators went on to the championship game where they fell to Mt. Lebanon, 20-12.
The teams didn't meet in the playoffs again until the 2003 WPIAL quarterfinals, when the Indians edged the Gators in overtime, 30-27.
Gateway avenged that loss six years later with a 42-20 victory in the semifinals.
The Gators then played Woodland Hills for the Quad-A title at Heinz Field and suffered a 10-0 loss.
“When Gateway sees North Hills, you know its a big game,” Militzer said.
Gateway has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs 12 years in a row, and the Gators moved past the first round the previous 11 times.
The last time a Gateway team lost in the first round was in 2000 at the hands of Shaler.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.