Greensburg Salem ousted by Blackhawk
In Boston, the curse is no more, but for Greensburg Salem, the first-round jinx goes on.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Golden Lions were ousted from the WPIAL playoffs in the first round. In front of a sparse, rain-deterred crowd Friday night at Greensburg's Offutt Field, Blackhawk (7-3) exploded for 24 points in the third quarter and defeated Greensburg Salem, 38-9, to advance to the Class AAA quarterfinals against Moon next week.
With the Cougars clinging to a precarious 10-9 lead midway through the third quarter, Greensburg Salem's Matt Boe's 34-yard field goal attempt was blocked, a defensive play Blackhawk coach Joe Hamilton called the "turning point of the game."
Three plays later, the Cougars resorted to some Halloween trickery with a halfback option pass from Jeremy Bruce to Jeff Halbig for 82 yards and a touchdown, for a 17-9 Blackhawk lead. Two plays into Greensburg Salem's next possession, Blackhawk's Eric Petre intercepted a Golden Lions pass at the Greensburg Salem 28 and returned the ball to the one, from where Bruce scored one play later.
Bruce wasn't finished. He intercepted a Josh Williams pass and returned the ball for a 35-yard touchdown and a 31-9 Blackhawk lead. Bruce, who has committed to play at West Virginia next year, finished the Cougars' scoring with a four-yard run midway through the fourth quarter. Bruce led all ball carriers with 95 yards on 26 attempts.
"What's bad about this is that someone from out of town will see the final score and think it was a rout," Greensburg Salem (8-2) coach George Kemerer said. "The final score is not indicative of what happened. We weren't able to run the ball (41 net yards on 23 attempts), but we threw the ball pretty well."
In fact, Greensburg Salem came out of the lockerroom throwing, passing on its first three plays. "Blackhawk is big up front and we weren't sure we could run, so our game plan was to throw," Kemerer said.
After Blackhawk took a 10-3 lead early in the third quarter, Greensburg Salem needed only one play to score. Anthony Manley connected with Brennan Marion on a 75-yard touchdown pass to narrow the Cougars' lead to 10-9. Marion hauled in Manley's pass along the left sideline, sidestepped one defender, stumbled when another attempted to push him out of bounds, but regained his balance and tightroped his way into the end zone. Greensburg Salem's conversion attempt failed due to a mishandled snap from center.
When Greensburg Salem's Christian Johnson recovered a Blackhawk fumble on the Cougars' first play following the ensuing kickoff, momentum swung to the Golden Lions' bench. But the blocked field goal ended Greensburg Salem's scoring chances and season.
Despite the loss, Kemerer was more than positive in a subdued Golden Lions' lockerroom following the game.
"This was a tremendous season," Kemerer said. "This has been a great group of players to be around all year. I couldn't be more proud of what they accomplished. Our goal was to win a second consecutive Keystone Conference title, and we achieved that goal. This team has much to be proud of."
Manley, incidentally, who left the game late in the third quarter with what Kemerer speculated as being a "slight concussion," completed 12-of-24 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown.