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Wheeler rushes for 359 yards, 6 TDs as West Mifflin outduels Moon

Ronald vezzani Jr. | Tribune Review - Moon's James Farbo lunges for the legs of West Mifflin's Jimmy Wheeler on a touchdown run during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Ronald vezzani Jr.  |  Tribune Review</em></div>Moon's James Farbo lunges for the legs of West Mifflin's Jimmy Wheeler on a touchdown run during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News - West Mifflin running back Jimmy Wheeler runs for a touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter against Moon during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, at West Mifflin.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Ronald Vezzani Jr.  |  For the Daily News</em></div>West Mifflin running back Jimmy Wheeler runs for a touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter against Moon during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, at West Mifflin.
| Tribune Review - Moon Head Coach Mark Washington discusses strategy with a coach during the during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs against West Mifflin on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin. Ronald vezzani Jr.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  |  Tribune Review</em></div>Moon Head Coach Mark Washington discusses strategy with a coach during the during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs against West Mifflin on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin.   Ronald vezzani Jr.
| Tribune Review - Moon running back Ian Kelly makes his way through an offensive hole during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs against West Mifflin on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin. Ronald vezzani Jr.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  |  Tribune Review</em></div>Moon running back Ian Kelly makes his way through an offensive hole during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs against West Mifflin on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin.   Ronald vezzani Jr.
| Tribune Review - Moon running back Cole Blake breaks through the West Mifflin defense for a touch down during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs against West Mifflin on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin. Ronald vezzani Jr.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  |  Tribune Review</em></div>Moon running back Cole Blake breaks through the West Mifflin defense for a touch down during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs against West Mifflin on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin.   Ronald vezzani Jr.
| Tribune Review - West Mifflin running back Jimmy Wheeler narrowly avoids being tackled on the sideline against Moon during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin. Ronald Vezzani Jr.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  |  Tribune Review</em></div>West Mifflin running back Jimmy Wheeler narrowly avoids being tackled on the sideline  against Moon during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin.   Ronald Vezzani Jr.
| Tribune Review - Moon quarterback Aleksei Yaramus pitches the ball during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs against West Mifflin on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin. Ronald vezzani Jr.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  |  Tribune Review</em></div>Moon quarterback Aleksei Yaramus pitches the ball during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs against West Mifflin on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin.   Ronald vezzani Jr.
| Tribune Review - Moon Area's Niko Yaramus (55) congratulates linebacker Thomas LaBrie (63) after recovering a West Mifflin fumble during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin. Ronald Vezzani Jr.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  |  Tribune Review</em></div>Moon Area's Niko Yaramus (55) congratulates linebacker Thomas LaBrie (63) after recovering a West Mifflin fumble during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin.  Ronald Vezzani Jr.
| Tribune Review - West Mifflin Head Coach Ray Braszo watches game action against Moon Area during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin. Ronald Vezzani Jr.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  |  Tribune Review</em></div>West Mifflin Head Coach Ray Braszo watches game action against Moon Area during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, November 1, 2013 at West Mifflin.   Ronald Vezzani Jr.

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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 mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib

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