Cathedral Prep again eliminates West Allegheny from PIAA playoffs
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This was an ending with a familiar feel.
For the second consecutive year, West Allegheny's season ended with a loss to Erie's Cathedral Prep in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals, this time a dominant 28-0 victory by the reigning state champion Friday at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium.
A year ago, Cathedral Prep (13-0) won with a pair of talented Michigan State recruits. But this time, minus those two stars, these well-rounded Ramblers were equally good.
“I think there's a reason they won the state championship last year,” West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said. “They had more than two good players.”
This was the first loss for West Allegheny (13-1).
District 10 champion Cathedral Prep scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and leaned heavily on a defense that had eight sacks and allowed only 18 rushing yards. With a 14-0 halftime lead, the Ramblers returned a third-quarter blocked punt for another score and added a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth after a 59-yard fake punt.
Cathedral Prep senior Billy Fessler completed 16 of 23 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. His 8-yard touchdown to Alex Greenawalt and 28-yarder to Felix Manus-Schell both were in the first quarter.
“When you get into a game like this, you've got to be able to make plays along with them and we didn't do that,” Palko said.
Cathedral Prep had 397 offensive yards on 59 plays. West Allegheny, which was missing junior tailback Chayse Dillon to an ankle injury, had just 170 yards on 58 plays. Most was from quarterback Andrew Koester, who threw for 152 yards, but the junior also was sacked eight times.
A year ago, it was a 27-13 loss to Cathedral Prep that ended West Allegheny's season in the PIAA quarterfinals. That time, Delton Williams and Damion Terry combined for three second-half touchdowns to win.
Yet, might this Prep team be even better?
“It's like comparing children, I don't do that,” Prep coach Mike Mischler said. “We're a different team. We're a very physical football team. It's certainly different than we had last year.”
West Allegheny played without Dillon, a junior who had rushed for 1,205 yards and 12 touchdowns. He injured an ankle in the WPIAL championship game.
Without Dillon, the Indians leaned on Delmonico and sophomore Terence Stephens.
But nobody in red found much success. Delmonico had 41 yards on 14 carries and Stephens had 3 yards on five carries. The Indians, who averaged more than 200 yards per game, rushed for just 18 yards on 33 carries. That included 47 yards lost on eight sacks.
“No. 1, (losing Dillon) was a big blow to them,” Mischler said. “But our kids wanted to play physical football. We were able to get in their backfield a lot. I thought we did a good job trying to control the line of scrimmage.”
A 14-play, 60-yard touchdown drive gave Cathedral Prep a 7-0 lead. The Ramblers converted five third-downs, including a 7-yard touchdown pass from Fessler to Alex Greenawalt on third-and-goal.
Before Friday, Fessler had completed 124 of his 260 throws for 2,736 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Prep needed just 70 seconds to score its second touchdown. A 28-yard pass from Fessler to Felix Manus-Schell finished a 40-yard drive. With 31 seconds left in the first quarter, the Ramblers led, 14-0.
For West Allegheny, it was a dismal 12 minutes. The Indians ran eight offensive plays for seven total yards and punted twice in the first quarter.
A 9-yard blocked-punt return by William Norfolk and a 3-yard touchdown run by Michael Parker were Cathedral Prep's second-half touchdowns.
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