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Shaler blocks Mt. Lebo to advance

| Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009

Shaler coach Neil Gordon said he doesn't typically like to line up receiver Jesse Della Valle in the backfield.

He couldn't have been upset with the result last night, however.

Della Valle rushed for 147 yards and three scores on 34 carries, leading Shaler to a 23-21 Class AAAA first-round playoff victory at home against Mt. Lebanon.

Della Valle also applied the pressure on Christian Orfanopoulos' potential game-winning field goal from 30 yards out that was blocked with 30 seconds left.

"I'm a senior. I grew up in Shaler. That's the last play I'm going to play on this field," Della Valle said. "That's all that needs to be said."

No. 6-seeded Shaler (9-1) will play No. 3-seeded Bethel Park in next Friday's quarterfinals.

Luke Hagy ran for 161 yards for No. 11 Mt. Lebanon, which was able to move the ball for most of the night. Sophomore quarterback Pat Goff also completed 12 of 13 passes for 108 yards and touchdown.

"Mt. Lebanon did a heck of a job tonight," Shaler coach Neil Gordon said. "That's about as good a high school football game you're going to see."

Gordon's team defeated Mt. Lebanon, 21-12, in Week 4, and Gordon said it'd be tough to beat a team twice. This game proved him right.

The Titans promptly drove 67 yards in 4:43 on their first drive, and Della Valle go the ball on seven of the drive's nine plays. With a 4-yard run to the left on second-and-goal, Della Valle quickly put Shaler on top, 7-0.

The Blue Devils appeared to be in position to tie the game at 7 with 9:59 left in the second quarter, when Luke Alberts followed a spectacular 43-yard run -- which included a hurdling of a defender -- with a 1-yard score. But the extra point was blocked, and Shaler kept the lead.

Mt. Lebanon was then in the position to get the ball back when Steve Hamilton's 35-yard field goal attempt missed wide left. Hamilton, though, was roughed on the play, giving Shaler a first-and-goal from the 9. Della Valle rumbled through the line on third-and-goal for a 3-yard score, giving the Titans a 14-6 lead that they'd take into the half.

Not that Mt. Lebanon was content to run out the clock. The Blue Devils got it back with 21 seconds left, and Pat Goff completed three straight passes down to the Shaler 27.

The last went to Michael Martin for a first down, and Mt. Lebanon tried to call a timeout to stop the clock with one second remaining. After a quick deliberation -- with Shaler heading to the locker room -- the officials concluded that time had run out.

Not that it hurt that much, because Mt. Lebanon drove 76 yards on nine plays to start the third quarter. Hagy ran through the middle for a 28-yard touchdown, and Goff hit Martin on an out route for the 2-point conversion.

Della Valle then drove Shaler right back down the field, but was tackled for a 4-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 2. Hamilton this time was good from 23 yards out, and Shaler led by three entering the fourth quarter.

"Jesse's Jesse," Gordon said. "He's just a big-time player."

The Blue Devils, again, drove 65 yards on 12 plays, and Goff connected with Martin on a right-corner fade from 6 yards out on a fourth-and-four, and Mt. Lebanon led, 21-17, with 7:33 left.

Shaler moved 62 yards in 5:13, though, and Della Valle put Shaler back on top, 23-21, with a 2-yard leap into the end zone because Hamilton missed the extra point left.

The Blue Devils drove down to the Shaler 7 before the blocked field goal, and Shaler ran out the clock.

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