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Gateway refocusing after first loss

Aaron Loughner | For The Times Express
Senior running back Darin Franklin (5) seeks running room as the North Allegheny defense closes in during a nonconference game at Antimarino Stadium on Oct. 5, 2012. The Gators tasted defeat for the first time this season in a 14-3 loss to the Tigers.

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Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

The Gateway football coaches and players took stock in Friday's 14-3 loss to top-ranked North Allegheny.

They picked apart the film. They studied the blocking and tackling efforts. They scrutinized their running and passing games.

The experience, Gateway head coach Terry Smith said, was a valuable one for the battles that lie ahead, both over the remainder of the regular season and into the WPIAL playoffs.

“We used the game as a measuring tool,” said Smith, whose team slipped one spot to No. 3 in this week's Tribune-Review Quad-A rankings.

“We went up against the top team in Quad-A. Unfortunately, we didn't get the victory, but we learned a lot from it.”

North Allegheny's running game — led by quarterback Mack Leftwich and tailback Alex DiCiantis — ruled the day and was the difference.

The Tigers racked up 215 yards on 37 attempts.

Leftwich scored twice on runs of 1 and 12 yards, and DiCiantis added 126 yards on 25 carries.

Gateway senior running back Andre Martin didn't add to his 12-touchdown season total, but he did finish with 95 yards on 18 carries. He now has 654 yards on 69 attempts through six games.

Gators senior signal caller Thomas Woodson went over 1,000 passing yards for the season against the Tigers. He finished with 127 yards through the air and now has 1,089 for the season.

“The best thing about this is it wasn't a playoff game,” Smith said, “so we live to breathe another day … We played well, we played tough, but we just didn't play well enough to win.”

Smith said that as much as the coaches and players wanted to send North Allegheny home from Antimarino Stadium with a loss, there still is a lot out there to be had.

Getting the conference crown back from Penn-Trafford, who laid claim to the title in 2011, still is on the table.

“We're back in conference play,” Smith said.

“That is what is most important. Our three goals for this season are to win a conference championship, win the WPIAL and win a PIAA title. We still have those three goals out there to accomplish. We have to keep pace with Penn-Trafford, who also is undefeated in the conference.”

The Warriors, who, like the Gators, are 5-1 overall and undefeated in the conference at 5-0, host Kiski Area this week.

Gateway visits Penn-Trafford next week in a game that almost certainly will decide the conference championship.

But first things first, Smith said, and the immediate focus is bouncing back, and a young Norwin team, fronted by veteran head coach Art Tragesser, stands in the Gators' path.

“Art Tragesser is a terrific coach,” Smith said.

“He has a great history of success. He and his staff put in endless hours, and the kids are responding to him. It is a young team that wants to get better and be competitive.”

The youth of the Knights is seen in its secondary, which features three sophomores and a freshman playing key roles.

Norwin's quarterback is 6-foot, 195-pound freshman Nicholas Amendola.

“We're working hard and getting better every week,” Tragesser said.

“The kids are very excited to go down there and play Gateway. It's a great opportunity.”

The Gators lead the all-time series with the Knights, 18-4. Norwin last beat Gateway in 2000, and the Gators defeated the Knights, 85-0, last year in a game that generated some controversy and much discussion over Gateway's point total in the contest.

Norwin's lone victory this season came against Latrobe, 27-14, in week four, and the Knights fell to Kiski Area, 36-14, last week, as turnovers hurt their chances in scoring a win over the Cavaliers.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at

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