Wheeler rushes for 359 yards, 6 TDs as West Mifflin outduels Moon
By Mark Kaboly
Published: Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, 11:12 p.m.
Jimmy Wheeler rushed for 359 yards and six touchdowns
Cole Blake rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns.
So, of course, the difference in Friday's first-round WPIAL Class AAA playoff game between West Mifflin and Moon was defense.
West Mifflin's Dorian Foreman stopped Blake on a fourth-and-short at Moon's 24-yard line then held Moon out of the end zone on the ensuing 13-play drive as the Titans advance to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in the past six tries under Ray Braszo with a stunning 47-42 win at Titans Stadium.
“What the heck was that?” Braszo said.
Wheeler added: “Crazy, crazy game.”
West Mifflin raced back from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to advance and play Franklin Regional in the quarterfinals next week.
“I know I have never seen anything like that before,” Braszo said. “It was looking more and more like whoever had the ball last was going to win the game.”
Instead, West Mifflin used a fumble recovery, a turnover on downs and a pooch kick that was recovered by DiAngelo Mitchell late in the fourth quarter to complement an offense that was unstoppable.
A week after rushing for a career-low 14 yards, Wheeler had touchdown runs of 2, 59, 70, 69, 21 and 24 yards, with the final one giving the Titans a lead with five minutes left in the game.
“I wanted to show people that I was a better running back than I was last week,” Wheeler said. “I wanted to go out there run the ball hard and help my team win.”
It was Wheeler's third time eclipsing 350 yards this season. He came within 7 yards of setting a West Mifflin single-game record.
Wheeler has 2,381 yards rushing and is within striking distance of Rushel Shell's WPIAL single-season record of 2,740.
The Titans needed all the yards because West Mifflin had no answer for Moon's running game.
“It wasn't a good matchup for us,” Braszo said. “They are a big and powerful team, and that's what we struggle with.”
Moon got on the board with an impressive 11-play drive that was highlighted by a heavy dose Blake, who rushed eight times for 45 yards on the 60-yard drive and capped it with a 3-yard run to make it 7-0.
West Mifflin answered with help from Moon.
The Titans quickly turned a Blake fumble into a 16-yard touchdown pass from Karlyn Garner to Kevin Garbark on a third down late in the first quarter.
The ensuing kickoff was placed to the near sideline where it was picked up by Mitchell. Television replays showed that the ball was touched by the Titans' Dorian Foreman while he was out of bounds. Still, the ball was awarded to the Titans, and they took advantage three plays later when Wheeler powered in for a touchdown and a 13-7 West Mifflin lead.
Moon answered with one of its time consuming drive of eight plays, 65 yards that was capped by Blake's 3-yard run.
Wheeler answered with a 59-yard touchdown run, and Ian Kelly scored just before the half to knot the score at 21-21.
After that, it was a free-for-all: Wheeler 70-yard run; Blake 1-yard run; Wheeler 69-yard run; Blake 30-yard run and Wheeler 21 and 24-yard runs.
“Again, crazy, crazy game,” Wheeler said.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib
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