Murray, Steel Valley rout South Allegheny
Rod Steele was part of three WPIAL championships and two PIAA titles as an assistant coach at Central Catholic, but he just might be having the most fun of all this season as coach at Steel Valley.
Steele and the No. 5 Ironmen tuned up for the WPIAL playoffs by routing South Allegheny, 60-0, on Friday night in a Class AA Century Conference game, capping a stellar regular season that saw Steel Valley nearly run the table.
Steel Valley's only loss is to two-time defending PIAA champion South Fayette, 37-0, and it's a sore spot with the Ironmen (8-1, 7-1).
“Let's just put it this way,” Steele said. “After that loss, everybody was on time in the film room to see what they did wrong.”
Since then, the Ironmen have won three in a row, outscoring their opponents, 161-14.
Four minutes into the second quarter Friday night, host Steel Valley was ahead, 47-0, prompting Steele to pull his starters, including DeWayne Murray, who scored five touchdowns and inched closer to 4,000 career yards rushing.
“I'm not really thinking about that too much right now,” Murray said. “I'm focused on the playoffs. That other stuff will come.”
WPIAL playoff pairings will be announced Monday.
Murray, a junior, gained 186 yards on six carries to go over 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season before heading to the sideline for good. But not before he scored on touchdown runs of 15, 20 and 19 yards, a 77-yard punt return and a 12-yard fumble recovery.
“He's a great player, and you have to have all 11 guys working to stop him,” South Allegheny coach Pat Monroe said. “Early on, our defensive line and our linebackers were doing a good job of keying on him. But he just bounced outside, and he pretty much had his way.”
Murray, who has 1,133 yards rushing this season, needs 67 to reach 4,000 for his career and could get it in a first-round playoff game likely at home Friday night.
“They are a great team with a combination of a lot of things. They hit, they have speed and they're athletic,” Monroe said. “Hopefully, they go out and represent the Mon Valley well in the playoffs.”
Steel Valley (8-1, 7-1) pounced on South Allegheny (2-7, 2-6) from the start and bolted to a 40-0 lead after one quarter.
When Murray scored his third rushing touchdown and fifth of the game just 37 seconds into the second quarter, Steele had seen enough of his first team to realize its motivation.
“This team can go as far as it wants to go,” Steele said. “These guys are athletic, they're strong, they're tough and they know football. They've been together for a long time now and they have a great bond.”
Said Monroe: “That team has the potential to go far. They've done a good job of sticking together.”
Murray's 15-yard run put Steel Valley on the board just 32 seconds into the game.
After a safety made it 8-0, Trey Earl Edwards fired a 33-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brookins before Murray returned a punt 77 yards for a score.
Edwards found Kennedy Smith on an 18-yard scoring strike to finish 2 for 2 in passing, then Murray scooped up a loose ball and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown to give Steel Valley its 40-point first quarter.
After Murray's 19-yard TD run in the second, Steele inserted his backups, and Eliisha Hughes responded with a 24-yard touchdown run to up the lead to 54-0 at halftime.
With a running clock in the second half, Steel Valley scored once in the fourth quarter on freshman Kameron Williams' 7-yard touchdown run.
“I can't believe we're already at the end of the regular season,” Steele said. “It's been more than coaching these guys. It's been keeping them together. I'm having a lot of fun.”