Seneca Valley QB leads rout against Hempfield
Written off by some after graduating several offensive stalwarts from last year's semifinal team, Seneca Valley again is in position to make a WPIAL postseason push.
Quarterback T.J. Holl recorded another strong performance with 378 total yards, and Brad Hensler scored three touchdowns as the No. 5-seeded Raiders defeated visiting Hempfield, 36-10, in a Class AAAA opening-round playoff game at NexTier Stadium.
The win sets up an intriguing quarterfinal against No. 4 Woodland Hills, which won its eighth straight in defeating Pine Richland, 35-14.
“There's no such thing as a bad victory,” Seneca Valley coach Don Holl said. “Hempfield is a program on the rise, and we won and stayed alive.”
A week after accounting for five touchdowns, T.J. Holl overcame a shaky start to complete 16 of 24 passes for 265 yards and a 31-yard touchdown pass to Hensler. The junior added 113 yards on 21 carries as Seneca Valley (9-1) dashed Hempfield's (6-4) playoff hopes for a second straight year.
Seneca Valley won last year's first-round playoff between the two teams 50-20, although many of the contributors in that game have graduated.
Gone are the likes of career passing leader Jordan Brown and all-time leading rusher Forrest Barnes, but with Holl, Hensler and a key-cast of juniors, the Raiders appear poised to make more noise.
Starting in place of the injured Mason Dehart, Hensler responded. The junior shook off an early fumble to finish with 130 total yards (63 rushing) and three touchdowns.
His touchdown runs of 6 and 2 yards helped a sloppy Seneca Valley offense that committed three first-half turnovers that only yielded John Domit's 43-yard field goal.
“That said something about how the game was going to go,” Holl said. “I'm sure they would like to have gotten more out of those opportunities.”
Eric McKonja added a 6-yard touchdown for Seneca Valley, which bottled up the Hempfield quarterback tandem of Ty George and Daniel Walters.
Walters connected with George on a 3-yard touchdown pass before the half to cut the deficit to 22-10, but Hensler's third score and Holl's 6-yard fourth quarter touchdown run sealed the victory.
“I've been with this junior class for a long time, and we have always been successful and are really comfortable playing together,” Hensler said.
“I knew we had some key injuries, and people had to step up. We put together a great game plan and came out and got the win.”
Brian J. Duermeyer is a freelance writer.