Sto-Rox advances with hard-fought win
Sto-Rox certainly didn't expect to be the fourth seed from the Century Conference this season, not with Penn State recruit Paul Jones at quarterback and Pitt recruit Andrew Carswell leading a stable of four speedy wideouts.
However, any disappointment the Vikings felt about their regular season disappeared Friday night, as they rallied to upset fifth-seeded Shady Side Academy, 32-20, in a WPIAL Class AA first-round playoff game at McKelvey Field in Fox Chapel.
"It was a tough game for us. Shady Side Academy is a very good team and we knew we would have to play very well to beat them," said Sto-Rox coach Jason Ruscitto. "Class AA is just so good and there are so many good teams. Whoever winds up winning the championship will have earned it."
Sto-Rox (8-2) advanced to the quarterfinals to play either Beaver Falls or Steel Valley. Shady Side Academy, which had its four-game winning streak stopped, finished 8-2.
Sto-Rox went ahead with 7:06 left on a 2-yard touchdown run by Joshuae Beverly.
The touchdown was set up when Marshawn Ptomey returned a squad kickoff to the Shady Side Academy 33. Two plays later, Jones ran 21 yards to 2 to set up Beverly's score.
Sto-Rox then made a big defensive stop, holding Shady Side Academy on downs at the Vikings' 26 as Xavier Scott batted down a pass in the end on third down and a pass at the goal line on fourth down.
Sto-Rox then marched 74 yards for an insurance touchdown. Beverly bursting the up the middle for a 7-yard score with 40 seconds remaining.
Shady Side had gone ahead 20-16 just 55 seconds earlier when tight end Chris Farrell hauled in a 52-yard touchdown pass from Reggie Mitchell.
Jones misfired on 10 of his first 11 passes but wound up completing 8 of 18 for 141 yards. Ruscitto said he was impressed with his quarterback's resilience.
"He was very frustrated with himself at halftime. He felt he had missed some open receivers. He just calmed down, though, and came back in the second half and played great."
Beverly rushed for 83 yards on the night.
Shady Side Academy's Brian Nickel rushed for 117 yards on 24 carries and finished the season with 1,506.
Shady Side Academy took the opening kickoff and drove 72 yards in 13 plays and six minutes and 58 seconds for a touchdown. Brian Nickel capped the drive with a 14-yard run around left end.
Shady Side Academy stopped Sto-Rox's explosive offense on each of the Vikings' first three drives, including three-and-outs the first two times they had the ball.
However, Sto-Rox finally broke through with 2:42 left in the first half as wide receiver Dontae Gilmore ran 40 yards for a touchdown on third-and-20. Gilmore, lined up at quarterback in the wildcat formation, took a direct snap and sprinted to the right side and right past the Shady Side Academy defense.
Gilmore then lined up at quarterback again and threw a two-point conversion pass to Kevin Hooper to put Sto-Rox ahead, 8-7.
Sto-Rox scored again on its first possession of the second half, taking the kickoff and marching 62 yards in seven plays. Jones capped the drive by finding Dontez Ford in the end zone with an 8-yard pass.
Beverly ran for a two-point conversion to extend the lead to 16-7.
Shady Side Academy answered on its next possession as Mitchell had a 15-yard touchdown on a run up the middle to cut the deficit to 16-14 with 3:27 to go in the third quarter. Mitchell's score came immediately after a pass interference penalty on fourth-and-16 gave the Indians an automatic first down.