O-line gets it started for Gateway offense
Although the offensive line began the 2014 season as one of the Gateway football team's more experienced groups, head coach Tom Nola said it took some time for the unit to fully get to where it wanted — and needed — to be.
But after the past couple of weeks, continuity and effective communication, Nola said, has become a trademark of a group.
That, he added, has given the entire offense a boost of confidence.
The offensive line — sophomore left tackle Robert Hainsey, senior left guard Hunter Dale, junior center Adam Clark, senior right guard Dom Scassera and sophomore right tackle Anthony Hampton — opened the door for an offense which scored 78 combined points in wins over Indiana and Yough after a tough 36-7 loss to Mars on Oct. 3.
Nola said he hopes to see that same effectiveness Friday when Gateway renews its neighboring rivalry with Franklin Regional. Kickoff on Friday at Franklin Regional is at 7 p.m.
“The offensive line has improved each week,” Nola said.
“We have established a unit. It's been the same guys in the same spots the past couple of weeks. We had to change some things earlier in the season because of injuries or trying to find the right combination. They have stabilized things and are catching on to (offensive line coach) Marc Gambino and all of his philosophies. They really absorbed his teaching.”
Four returning Gateway players earned All-Quad East honorable mention honors in 2013, and two of them were Scassera and Hainsey. It was positive momentum for a group looked upon as a key part of Gateway's overall efforts to reach the WPIAL postseason in its first year in Class AAA.
Nola said the continuity along the offensive line has contributed to the success senior tailback Adam White is having.
White tallied 124 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in Gateway's 49-8 win over Yough on Friday. He also had 233 yards and two touchdowns on 36 touches in the Gators 29-28 overtime victory against Indiana on Oct. 10.
“The line is working well as a group,” Nola said. “They are all getting better.”
Nola also pointed to the improved blocking of senior tight end John Horner.
“John already has a lot of catches, and he's always been good as a receiver. He wants to make plays. He had three touchdowns against Yough. But he's doing a good job when a play calls for him to stay on the line and block.”
Gateway quickly established its dominance over winless Yough last week and led 42-0 at halftime. Horner caught two touchdowns — one each from quarterbacks Roy'Quez McNair and Michael Loffredo — and he rushed for another.
Aiden Howard hauled in a TD pass from McNair, and Loffredo and Jaleel Bey added rushing scores.
The Gateway defense limited Yough to 120 yards of total offense.
Horner coupled his strong offensive performance with a solid defensive effort. He tied Dale for the team lead in tackles with seven, and he added an interception.
Seniors Ryan Pitt and Isiah Davis each recovered a fumble, while sophomore Dylan Urban tallied a sack among his four tackles.
Gateway, currently tied with Mars and Indiana for third in the Greater Allegheny Conference at 4-3, will clinch a playoff spot with a win at Franklin Regional on Friday.
There also are a couple of scenarios that put the Gators in the playoffs even if they lose to the Panthers.
Gateway can grab the No. 2 spot in the conference and secure a home playoff game with a win over Franklin Regional and a Mars loss to Hampton.
Franklin Regional is in second place in the conference at 5-2 and will wrap up the No. 2 spot outright with a win Friday.
Hampton ran away with the conference title, and the Talbots are 8-0 heading into their game with Mars.
Franklin Regional and Gateway meet for the first time since week nine of the 2003 season when both were members of the Quad South Conference.
The Gators won that game at Franklin Regional, 49-13.
The Panthers dropped down to Class AAA for the 2004 season, and the rivalry was put on hold for a decade.
Franklin Regional is coming off a 24-6 nonconference home loss to undefeated Thomas Jefferson.
The Panthers, led by senior running back and linebacker Brett Zanotto, a Maryland recruit, shut out Greensburg-Salem, 35-0, two weeks ago.
“The kids have risen to a number of challenges lately and responded to adversity,” Nola said. “We've won four of five, and their confidence is growing each week. To have a chance at second place in the conference after the start we had is a credit to the character of the players.
“We hope to step up again against a great team that is well coached. Franklin Regional will be another great challenge. The kids are excited not only for what is at stake in the conference and for the playoffs, but they are ready to resume this neighborhood rivalry.”
�Michael Love is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.