Gorman: First playoff victory makes Yough the talk
For Yough, this is the season when everything changed, on a wing and a prayer. When one healed, the other was answered.
Then, the Cougars celebrated their first playoff victory in school history.
It started in the opener when a shoulder injury sidelined senior quarterback Tyler Donahue, who kept the season alive with a Hail Mary in a Week 8 win.
Yough pulled the biggest upset of the WPIAL playoffs as the No. 14 seed beat previously undefeated Kittanning, 57-42, in a Class AA first-round game.
“I'm not going to lie: It's pretty special,” said Yough coach Mark Crovak, whose Cougars play Beaver Falls Friday at Canon-McMillan. “What makes it real special is the people who have been involved in that program back from the '70s have called and sent letters of congratulations. When you make people happy, it's fantastic.”
Crovak became Yough's third coach in as many seasons in 2011 and went 0-9, 2-7 and 4-5. This season, Yough's seniors vowed not only to make the playoffs but to get a postseason win.
But after Interstate losses to Jeannette, Washington, Mt. Pleasant and Valley, Yough needed to win its final three games to qualify. They treated every game like it was a playoff.
The Cougars were tied with Greensburg Central Catholic late in the fourth quarter when their fortune finally changed.
First, Yough safety Eric Borkovich intercepted a pass in the final minute. Then, with 5.7 seconds left, Donahue heaved a pass that sailed over four defenders and a Yough receiver and into the grasp of Jordan Bryan for a 38-31 victory.
“It was like no feeling I'd ever had before,” Donahue said, “knowing that it was a playoff spot probably sealed like that.”
It became official with a 45-13 victory over Southmoreland in Week 9.
“The weight of the world was off our shoulders,” Crovak said. “They realized they could play.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Donahue, a four-year starter, had a monster game against Kittanning: He passed for 247 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 137 yards and two scores and had an 80-yard kick return.
Crovak could see the confidence in the Cougars' eyes at halftime against Kittanning, believing they were the superior team.
“It was a great feeling, to go from where we were to there,” Crovak said. “It was very gratifying.”
And for at least one night, it made Yough the talk of the WPIAL playoffs.