Underdogs Highlands, Apollo-Ridge enter quarterfinals motivated
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Highlands and Apollo-Ridge were the only Alle-Kiski Valley football teams to win their playoff openers on Friday and — no surprise here — both will face daunting challenges in the quarterfinals.
If they're looking for motivation, the teams can point to another pair of local teams that faced similar uphill climbs in the second round but prevailed.
The message, provided by the 2011 Knoch Knights and 2003 Springdale Dynamos, is clear: It can be done.
Class AAA No. 7 seed Highlands (7-3) edged No. 10 New Castle, 24-19, to set up a showdown with No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (10-0), a team that's reached the semifinals 15 times in the past 16 seasons.
“Our linebackers were very active and ran to the ball,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said about Friday's win. “Offensively, our kids made some plays. We seem to play as well as our competition. You saw that against Franklin Regional and Indiana (too).”
Highlands held New Castle to 2 yards rushing.
“We went man coverage, and we did what we do best: letting our linebackers control the game,” Albert said.
Doing the same to Thomas Jefferson, which has allowed exactly six points in its last four games, will come with resistance.
But harken back three seasons, when Knoch — albeit a lower-seeded team at No. 3 — blasted Thomas Jefferson, 31-9, in the quarters, showing that the Greater Allegheny Conference wasn't going to stand for bullying.
“I am proud of our conference,” Albert said. “There are eight teams left, and four of them are ours. I say it year in and year out: Our conference is one of the better ones.”
In Class A, No. 9 Apollo-Ridge (8-2) won a playoff game for just the second time in school history, downing No. 8 Beth-Center, 42-28.
“We had so many different kids, unheralded kids, make plays in that game,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “It's been amazing how we've had different kids stepping up. For two weeks in a row we've had kids who hadn't played all year long make some major plays.”
Now, the Vikings get No. 1 seed Sto-Rox (10-0), which lost to Clairton in last season's title game. Sto-Rox is led by quarterback Lenny Williams, the WPIAL's all-time passing leader.
“Our kids have to believe they have the opportunity to win this game,” Skiba said. “We think we have enough skill guys to do that.”
Quarterfinal sites in all classifications have yet to be announced.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.