Neshannock eliminates Monessen for 2nd straight year
A handful of Monessen players strutted and pranced onto the field Friday, drawing a personal foul penalty for taunting Neshannock before the opening coin toss.But the Greyhounds exited humbled following a 35-6 drubbing by the Lancers in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal at Chartiers-Houston.
For the second year, the Neshannock (9-2) upset the higher-seeded Greyhounds (10-2).
The sixth-seeded Lancers advance to face No. 2 seed North Catholic on Friday at a site and time to be determined.
“We're Neshannock. Teams don't take us seriously, so we're always out with something to prove,” coach Fred Mozzocio said. “We have a chip on our shoulder every week, and we'll have one next week as well.”
Quarterback Ernie Burkes accounted for four first-half touchdowns, two passing and two rushing, as Neshannock sprinted to a 28-0 halftime lead.
Tailback Elijah Owens rushed for 160 yards on 23 carries and scored the Lancers' final touchdown after amassing nearly 100 yards in the third quarter alone.
“There's nothing they ran we didn't practice over and over again, but to go live against them with that speed and the way their linemen come out, that's difficult to simulate at practice,” Monessen coach Andy Pacak said.“We wanted to run the ball, but they jumped up on us, and it took us out of what we wanted to do.
“When you get that far behind, you've got to try and come back.”
The Lancers bolted to a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions as Burkes ran for touchdowns of 19 and 23 yards.
“Ernie Burkes is one of the best playmakers in the WPIAL, bar none,” Mozzocio said. “Our offensive line got clicking, we stayed to our game plan and kept pounding away, and they ended up wearing down a little and Eli took over in the second half.”
The Monessen offense sputtered, managing just 50 yards and one first down in the first half.
Running backs Javon Brown and Clintell Gillaspie finished with 36 yards on 13 carries.Meanwhile, Monessen quarterbacks Noah Rullo and Justice Rawlins tossed four interceptions while completing just 7 of 21 attempts.
Of Monessen's 88 passing yards, more than half came on the final play of the game when Rawlins hit Gillaspie on a broken play for a 45-yard touchdown. Monessen didn't bother to kick the extra point following its lone score.
“From start to finish, we executed on both sides of the ball and just got after them,” Mozzocio said. “Our defensive front seven shut down their run from the very start and got constant pressure when they tried passing.”
“I'm surprised we got the hell beat out of us, but the turnovers are hard to overcome,” Pacak said. “You turn the ball over that many times against a team like that, and that's all she wrote.”
Rick Bruni is a freelance writer.