South Allegheny looks to stay hot vs. McGuffey
South Allegheny has done what any team with WPIAL playoff aspirations must do to move into the postseason: It has beaten up on the teams at the bottom of the standings.
South Allegheny (4-1, 3-1 Century Conference) has been impressive since its opening-night, running-clock loss to Seton-La Salle and enters Friday's 7:30 p.m. matchup with McGuffey (2-3, 1-3) at Glassport Stadium riding a four-game winning streak. Not including a nonconference win over New Brighton, the Gladiators have pummeled Quaker Valley, South Park and Burgettstown teams that are a combined 4-11 by a score of 129-35.
McGuffey coach Ed Dalton credited South Allegheny coach Pat Monroe.
“Winning sometimes makes you sloppy, but losing makes you look at the film with a more critical eye,” Dalton said. “But South Allegheny, Pat has got a nice blend of everything.”
McGuffey also had a tough start — opening with blowout losses to powerhouses South Fayette and Seton-La Salle would give any team nightmares — but unlike South Allegheny, the team has had difficulty rebounding. The Highlanders won their next two games after those defeats but suffered a setback last week with a 20-14 home loss to South Park.
“This is only my first year here, and we have a 42-man roster of which 24 kids didn't play football last year, whether they were freshmen coming in or older kids who just didn't play, and early on, we had our hands full,” Dalton said. “We're getting better, but there isn't much of a difference between winning and losing in that you've got to put it all behind you every week.”
South Allegheny has reached this point with a solid offense, led by senior quarterback Dustin Anderson, who has more than 400 yards running and passing to go with seven touchdowns. Senior running back Brandon Murn also has made it tough to stop the Gladiators' ground game, as he is averaging 8.8 yards per carry and has scored six times.
Outside of Seton-La Salle, no conference team has scored more than seven points against the South Allegheny defense. Sophomore DaVonte Johnson is tied for 14th in the WPIAL with two interceptions.
“They've got skill kids,” Dalton said. “He's got six or eight players like that. He's got a big, physical quarterback and a physical running back.”
McGuffey will attempt to counter with quickness as 5-foot-10, 165-pound sophomore running back James Duchi has 584 yards and three touchdowns since becoming a starter in the second game.
Still, McGuffey knows it will have its hands full as South Allegheny closes in on its first postseason berth in 36 years.
“I think you have to make one offensive and one defensive play on special teams, whether you block a punt or return a kick or a punt, because that's usually how upsets occur,” Dalton said. “We have not played the run well, and we'd better play the run well this week or we'll get annihilated.”
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.