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Game of the Week

Neshannock season comes to end

Neshannock (14) vs. Steel Valley (49)
Written: Nov 27, 2016
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By Ron Poniewasz Jr.

New Castle News

CORAOPOLIS — A WPIAL championship will have to wait for at least another year for the Neshannock High football program.

The Lancers struggled to mount enough offense early on against Steel Valley. And the Ironmen raced out to a quick start to put Neshannock in an early hole.

It was enough to foil the Lancers' bid for a district crown.

DeWayne Murray scored five touchdowns to propel Steel Valley to a 49-14 win over Neshannock in the WPIAL Class 2A championship game Saturday night at Robert Morris University's Joe Walton Stadium.

Murray finished with 213 yards rushing on 16 carries.

"It's been an awesome experience and it's been a great ride," said fifth-year Lancers coach Fred Mozzocio. "The experience is something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

"We wanted to be champions, but we're runners-up. There's a lot of other teams that wish they were runners-up today. We'll take the second-place trophy proudly and bring it back home with us."

It was the first appearance in the district championship game for the Lancers. They began playing varsity football back in 1958. Neshannock (12-2) has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs nine times in that span, five of them coming during Mozzocio's tenure.

"Our kids played their hearts out," Mozzocio said. "We came up short, but, sometimes you lose to a better football team. Tonight, we lost to a football team that is very talented. It was just a little too much for us. There's no shame in that."

Steel Valley (13-0) advances to meet Wilmington (12-1) in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at North Allegheny High School.

"I can't say enough about Neshannock and the job the staff has done with their team," Ironmen coach Rod Steele said. "That's a very good football team and they had a remarkable year. We knew eventually we would run into them.

"I don't know anything about Wilmington yet. But I do know that's another great opponent we'll be facing and we'll be up for another big challenge."

Steel Valley captured the program's first WPIAL championship since 1989.

Neshannock opened on defense after the Ironmen won the toss and elected to receive. The Lancers were able to force a punt and build some early momentum.

"We felt pretty good," Mozzocio said of the early stand. "We felt all along that we could contain them and hold them in check."

Neshannock, though, couldn't take advantage of the early momentum turned in by the defense. The Lancers went three-and-out and punted, but Danny Welker's punt was partially blocked by Kaleb Hughes. Welker scooped the ball up and scooted for a first down.

Neshannock stalled again and lined up for another punt. Once again, Hughes broke through and blocked the punt. This time, the Ironmen took over on the Lancers' 5.

"I don't know what they saw there," Mozzocio said. "But it's just their overwhelming speed coming off the edge. It's just athletes and they made some plays."

Said Steele, "We seen that it was possible to get something off the edge. We didn't have a block call on. It was just a great edge rush, on both of them."

Murray punched in the first of his five touchdowns when he plowed in from five yards out on the next play for a 7-0 lead with 5:03 left in the first half.

It opened a flurry of scoring for the Ironmen. Steel Valley burned the Neshannock secondary on two long passes in the first quarter from quarterback Ryan Harper, covering 65 yards and 55 yards. That pushed the count to 21-0 after one period.

"Once a good team like Steel Valley does that, they smell blood," Mozzocio said of the first-quarter big plays. "They turned it up to another level. After that, they were just pinning their ears back and cutting loose. We had to take some chances and get out of our gameplan to try and hit some big plays. It just snowballed from there."

The Lancers did little offensively in the first half. They executed 34 plays from scrimmage, managing just 67 total yards and six first downs. Neshannock senior quarterback Frank Antuono, who will play linebacker at Robert Morris, was 4 of 17 through the air for 22 yards and an interception in the opening half.

"They just have speed all over the field, from their secondary to their linebackers to the defensive line. They just have speed all over the field," Antuono said. "We knew they were fast from the film and what they've done all year. We just came out there and it wasn't surprising to us. We knew we had to play a perfect game."

Steel Valley led 28-0 late in the first half and was looking to push the game to the mercy rule by halftime. But Neshannock's defense stepped up and forced the Ironmen into a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the half that fell short.

"We knew it was going to be tough," Antuono said. "I told everyone, I don't care what the scoreboard says, we're going to play Neshannock Lancer football in the second half. Coach Mo echoed what I said."

Said Mozzocio of the defensive stand, "This football team, these seniors, that's a gut check. That's character. That's what we preach here."

The Ironmen, though, put the game away with three more touchdowns in the third quarter to push the count to 49-0.

Neshannock never quit, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Anthony DoVidio broke up the shutout when he hauled in a six-yard touchdown pass from Antuono with 6:54 remaining. It marked the first time all season that the Ironmen's first-team defense had been scored on.

"Even at the end of the game, when they had it in check, we got the ball and drove down against their first team and punched one in," Mozzocio said. "A lot of teams give up. This team didn't give up. We fought them tooth and nail the entire game. We lost, but the character stood out.

"My goal, as a coach, is to create character for young men. I think that was a great testament to those young men."

The Lancers got another score, this time with 15 seconds to go, when Greg Fornataro snared a six-yard touchdown pass from Jared Staph against the Steel Valley reserves. Tristan Tuck converted both of the Lancers' extra points.

"There's nothing to hang their head about," Mozzocio said. "In a couple of weeks, a week, whatever it takes for the dust to settle, we'll look back on this season and there will be nothing but celebration and joy looking back on the time we had. It's the journey. We've made friends for a lifetime."

(Email: rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com)

NESHANNOCK STEEL VALLEY

16 First downs 12

144 Yards Rushing 266

31 Yards Lost 11

113 Net Rushing 255

27 Passes Attempted 14

11 Passes Completed 7

2 Passes Intercepted 0

90 Yards Passing 186

203 Total Yards 441

2-2 Fumbles-Lost 1-1

5-13.8 Punts-Average 3-31.0

5-40 Penalties-Yards 9-82

NESHANNOCK 0 0 0 14 — 14

STEEL VALLEY 21 7 21 0 — 49

Scoring plays

STEEL VALLEY — DeWayne Murray, 5-yard run (Alex Grace kick).

STEEL VALLEY — Zai'Quan Henderson, 65-yard pass from Ryan Harper (Grace kick).

STEEL VALLEY — Trevon Adams, 55-yard pass from Harper (Grace kick).

STEEL VALLEY — Murray, 2-yard run (Grace kick).

STEEL VALLEY — Murray, 3-yard run (Grace kick).

STEEL VALLEY — Murray, 75-yard run (Grace kick).

STEEL VALLEY — Murray, 13-yard run (Grace kick).

NESHANNOCK — Anthony DoVidio, 6-yard pass from Frank Antuono (Tristan Tuck kick).

NESHANNOCK — Greg Fornataro, 6-yard pass from Jared Staph (Tuck kick).
GAME SCOREBOARD
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 OT SCORE
Neshannock 0 0 0 14 0 14
Steel Valley 21 7 21 0 0 49
GAME OF THE WEEK ARCHIVE
One step short 12/3/16 Neshannock season comes to end 11/27/16 The (im)perfect season 11/19/16 WPIAL championship game 11/18/16 New Castle advances to WPIAL Class 4A title game 11/11/16 Neshannock routs Serra Catholic 11/4/16 Neshannock hosts Serra Catholic 11/4/16 Thriller 10/28/16 Union at Shenango 10/28/16 'Canes stumble; playoff berth on line in finale 10/21/16 New Castle hosts Ringgold on Senior Night 10/21/16 Wilmington falls in battle of unbeatens 10/15/16 Wilmington at Hickory 10/13/16 On the defensive 10/8/16 Neshannock hosts Riverside 10/7/16 New Castle struggles in home loss to Mars 9/30/16 New Castle hosts Mars 9/30/16 'Canes hope to even score against Mars 9/30/16 Stayin' alive 9/23/16 Union hosts Western Beaver 9/23/16 Ground assault 9/17/16 Wilmington hosts Sharpsville 9/16/16 Too many mistakes for Laurel 9/10/16 Riverside travels to Laurel 9/9/16 Neshannock routs North Catholic 9/3/16 Canes quipped 8/31/16 A good mix 8/27/16 Black Friday 11/14/15 Wilmington vs. Cambridge Springs 11/13/15 Defense steps up for Lancers 11/7/15 Neshannock vs. Bentworth 11/5/15 No doubt about it 10/31/15 Neshannock vs. Union 10/30/15 Crowning effort 10/24/15 Shenango vs. Riverside 10/23/15 Playoff hopes dashed 10/17/15 Laurel vs. Beaver 10/16/15 A costly brawl 10/10/15 New Castle vs. Central Valley 10/9/15 Inching closer 10/3/15 Union vs. Shenango 10/2/15 'They had us on our heels' 9/26/15 South Side Beaver at Union 9/25/15 Shootout 9/19/15 Neshannock at Riverside 9/18/15 Pivotal 9/13/15 Neshannock, Shenango clash Saturday 9/11/15 Under the weather 9/5/15 New Brighton at Laurel 9/4/15 Heartbreaker 11/15/14 Neshannock vs. Clairton 11/14/14 Weathering the storm 11/8/14 Neshannock vs. Jeannette 11/7/14 Fast and furious 11/1/14 Springdale at Shenango 10/31/14 Opportunity lost 10/25/14 Sharpsville at Wilmington 10/24/14 One for the books 10/18/14 Ellwood City at Laurel 10/17/14 Ground war 10/11/14 Ellwood City at Mohawk 10/10/14 Drenched with happiness 10/4/14 South Side Beaver at Shenango 10/3/14 The perfect storm 9/27/14 Moon at New Castle 9/26/14 Coming up short 9/20/14 West Middlesex at Wilmington 9/19/14 Back in the saddle 9/13/14 Neshannock at Riverside 9/12/14 Tough act to follow 9/6/14 New Brighton at Ellwood City 9/5/14 'We will get better' 8/30/14 West Allegheny vs. New Castle 8/29/14 End of the road 11/16/13 Neshannnock vs. North Catholic 11/15/13 'Sharks in a frenzy' 11/9/13 Lancers advance to WPIAL semifinals 11/9/13 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/8/13 The best defense 11/2/13 Neshannock vs. Brentwood 11/1/13 'We battled to the end' 10/26/13 New Brighton at Mohawk 10/25/13 Costly blunders 10/19/13 Sto-Rox at Laurel 10/18/13 West Allegheny rallies in fourth to defeat 'Canes 10/12/13 West Allegheny at New Castle 10/11/13 Mohawk wins thriller behind McConahy, Barber 10/5/13 Ellwood City at Mohawk 10/4/13 Spartans ride big second half to win over Union 9/28/13 Laurel at Union 9/27/13 Burkes stars as Lancers escape upset bid 9/21/13 Shenango at Neshannock 9/20/13 So close ... 9/13/13 Neshannock at Sto-Rox 9/12/13 Run to glory 9/7/13 Laurel at Neshannock 9/6/13 Dando, Spartans roll over South Side Beaver 9/5/13 South Side Beaver vs. Laurel 8/30/13 Turnovers spell doom for Wilmington in D-10 title game 11/26/12 Wilmington vs. Hickory 11/24/12 Caught in a 'Bear' trap 11/17/12 Neshannock vs. Clairton in WPIAL Class A semifinals 11/15/12 Neshannock advances 11/10/12 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/9/12 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/9/12 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/8/12 Neshannock advances 11/3/12 Neshannock vs. Jefferson-Morgan 11/2/12 Down and out 10/27/12 New Castle at Hopewell 10/26/12 Pugh paces Wilmington to win over Sharon 10/22/12 Wilmington vs. Sharon 10/19/12 Mohawk falls to Beaver 10/13/12 Beaver vs. Mohawk 10/12/12 ‘We tip our hats to them’ 10/8/12 Neshannock at Rochester 10/5/12 Big-play display for Union 9/29/12 Union vs. Laurel 9/28/12 Lancers rout Shenango for fourth win 9/24/12 Blend of old, new sparks Union win 9/22/12 Union hosts Western Beaver 9/21/12 ’Hounds rise up for win over Hickory 9/15/12 Wilmington vs. Hickory 9/14/12 Milestone victory 9/10/12 New Castle at Riverside 9/7/12 699 and counting 9/1/12 New Castle vs. Central Valley 8/31/12 Turnovers lead to season-ending loss for Wilmington 11/21/11 Wilmington vs. General McLane 11/17/11 End of the dream 11/12/11 Ellwood vs. Greensburg Central 11/11/11 Ellwood advances 11/5/11 Ellwood City vs. Freeport 11/4/11 Mixed reviews 10/29/11 New Castle vs. Blackhawk 10/28/11 Wilmington rolls to Region 3 title 10/22/11 Wilmington vs. Sharon 10/21/11 It's Polka time 10/15/11 Ellwood City vs. Laurel 10/14/11 Aliquippa cruises past Ellwood City 10/8/11 Aliquippa vs. Ellwood City 10/7/11 Wilmington holds on for thrilling win over Hickory 10/1/11 Wilmington vs. Hickory 9/30/11 Union pulls away for win over South Side Beaver 9/24/11 South Side Beaver at Union 9/23/11 Big plays spell doom for New Castle 9/17/11 Central Valley vs. New Castle 9/16/11 Defense delivers for Neshannock 9/10/11 Defense delivers for Neshannock 9/10/11 Neshannock vs. Serra Catholic 9/9/11 New Castle suffers disappointing loss in opener 9/3/11 New Castle vs. Butler 9/2/11 Sharon ends Wilmington’s dominance 11/22/10 ‘Underdog’ Greyhounds move on to a rematch with Sharon 11/15/10 Wilmington vs. North East 11/12/10 Tough lesson 11/6/10 WPIAL Playoffs: Ellwood vs. South Fayette 11/5/10 Wolverines earn playoff berth 10/30/10 Riverside at Ellwood City 10/29/10 'Hounds lose heartbreaker 10/23/10 Wilmington at Sharon 10/22/10 Wolverines outlast Spartans 10/16/10 Laurel at Ellwood City 10/15/10 'Canes fall to Parkway foe Hopewell 10/9/10 New Castle to battle Hopewell 10/8/10 Lancers fall to Western Beaver 10/2/10 Western Beaver at Neshannock 10/1/10 Wolverines fall to Beaver 9/25/10 Beaver at Ellwood City 9/24/10 Shenango runs past South Side 9/20/10 Greyhounds lay hammer down on Greenville 9/11/10 Wilmington vs. Greenville 9/10/10 New Castle comes through 9/4/10 New Castle vs. Butler 9/4/10 Memorable run ends for Wilmington football team 12/14/09 Wilmington vs. Greensburg Catholic 12/11/09 Wilmington survives close call against Forest Hills 12/4/09 Wilmington vs. Forest Hills 12/4/09 Wilmington blanks Sharon 11/28/09 Wilmington vs. Sharon 11/27/09 Laurel season ends with setback 11/21/09 Laurel vs. Clairton in WPIAL semifinals 11/20/09 West Allegheny ends New Castle’s season 11/14/09 New Castle vs. West Allegheny 11/13/09 New Castle holds off Greensburg Salem 11/7/09 New Castle at Greensburg Salem 11/6/09 Wilmington routs Slippery Rock 10/30/09 Slippery Rock at Wilmington 10/30/09 Shenango blanks Union 10/24/09 Shenango at Union 10/23/09 Spartans overwhelm Monaca 10/17/09 Monaca at Laurel 10/16/09 Mohawk outlasts Ellwood City 10/10/09 Mohawk at Ellwood City 10/9/09 Rochester turns back Laurel in battle of unbeatens 10/3/09 Laurel at Rochester 10/2/09 Laurel opportunistic against Neshannock 9/26/09 Neshannock at Laurel 9/25/09 New Castle ends streak against Blackhawk 9/19/09 New Castle hosts Blackhawk 9/18/09 New Castle passes test against Indiana 9/12/09 Indiana at New Castle 9/11/09 Ellwood comes up short against Freedom 9/5/09 Freedom at Ellwood 9/4/09 Wilmington wins PIAA title! 12/15/08 'Hounds headed for Hershey 12/6/08 Wilmington vs. Aliquippa 12/5/08 Wilmington holds off Martinsburg Central 11/29/08 Wilmington edges Slippery Rock for District 10 title 11/24/08 "Down and Out" 11/19/08 New Castle outlasts Indiana in quarterfinals 11/8/08 New Castle vs. Indiana 11/7/08 New Castle vs. Indiana 11/6/08 New Castle routs Franklin Regional 11/1/08 Franklin Regional at New Castle 11/1/08 Laurel wins, but not enough 10/25/08 Shenango at Laurel 10/25/08 New Castle routs Ambridge 10/18/08 Ambridge at New Castle 10/18/08 Rochester blanks Neshannock 10/11/08 Wilmington handles Sharon 10/4/08 South Side Beaver blanks Neshannock 9/27/08 Neshannock vs. South Side Beaver 9/27/08 Neshannock holds off Laurel 9/20/08 Rochester blanks Union 9/13/08 Union-Rochester 9/12/08 Mohawk routs New Brighton 9/6/08 Butler outlasts New Castle 8/30/08
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