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Game of the Week

So close ...

Neshannock (31) vs. Sto-Rox (34)
Written: Sep 13, 2013
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By Corey J. Corbin

New Castle News

McKEES ROCKS — Football is a game of inches. Everyone knows it. Everyone says it.

Last night the Neshannock High football team lived it.

Whether it was Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams’ game-winning touchdown pass just barely getting past the outstretched fingertips of Lancers defensive back Eli Owens, or fullback Gianni Oliva falling to the muddy turf less than a yard short of the goal line in the closing seconds, Neshannock was gutwrenchingly close to a huge WPIAL Big Seven victory, but instead had to settle for a 34-31 loss to host Sto-Rox.

“It’s a game of inches, right?” Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio asked rhetorically. “Six inches separated us tonight. It was a great football game. I’ll play a game like this any day. This is what it’s all about.

“It’s definitely a tough loss ... it’s tough to swallow. I always tell these guys that we’re going to go 48 minutes, give everything you have, lay it all on the line and if that’s not good enough, we’ll be the first to go over to the other team to congratulate them. Tonight was one of those nights. We came up six inches short. I feel for my team ... they played their hearts out. Last year, we were on the other side of it. That’s just how football is.”

Following Javell Kirkland’s game-winning 53-yard score from Williams, the Lancers mounted one final drive from their own 35.

Neshannock (2-1 conference, 2-1 overall) needed 11 plays — including a key fourth down conversion on a Jimmy Medure reverse and pivotal Ernie Burkes to Steven Jefferies connection on third-and-11 — to get to the Vikings 6 with a fresh set of downs.

After Oliva picked up five yards on first down, he was stopped for a one-yard loss on second down and a botched snap cost Neshannock third down, setting up for the pivotal fourth down play from the two.

After a timeout with 10 seconds left, Oliva attempted to go around the right side of the Lancers line on fourth-and-two, but had his legs taken out from under him by a Sto-Rox defender.

“Once we got down there and there was a timeout, I called my kids over and I put it in their hands,” Mozzocio said. “I asked them if they wanted to go for the win or if they wanted to go for the tie. They wanted to go for the win, so we went for the win. We won’t second-guess that. We laid it on the line and I’m proud of them that they had the confidence to go for the win. It was a great game and (Sto-Rox) made one more play than we did. Hopefully, we get another shot at them.”

Vikings coach Dan Bradley expected Neshannock to feature Burkes on the game-clinching play.

“I thought maybe a bootleg or play action to get Ernie on the edge to see what happened,” he said. “It’s a good call if it works, but they went power football. They had been getting yards with that.”

The Lancers got on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter when Ralph Dovidio sacked Williams in the endzone for a safety after the snap sailed past Williams. On Neshannock’s ensuing offensive series, Burkes found Jefferies in the back of the end zone for a five-yard scoring strike and a 9-0 cushion after the first of three Jason Owrey extra points.

Four plays later, the Vikings cut the deficit to 9-8 with a 45-yard bomb from Williams to Mallory Clayburn. Clayburn provided the two-point conversion out of a swinging gate formation.

In the second quarter, Oliva sandwiched three-yard scoring runs around an 11-yard scoring strike from Williams to Kirkland.

Neshannock entered the break nursing a 23-22 lead before Williams joined forces with Kirkland again on a 37-yard touchdown just 11 seconds before halftime.

The Vikings (3-0 conference, 3-0 overall) took their first lead of the game (28-23) with 5:18 left in the third quarter on a Brendan Blair 13-yard touchdown pass from Williams.

Neshannock stole the momentum back moments later when Burkes saw something in the Sto-Rox defense, running 67 yards for a 31-28 lead on a fake punt.

“Ernie knows he has the green light,” Mozzocio said. “He reads it not only on our offense, but when he’s punting. He always has the green light when he sees something. He’s a playmaker .... that’s the stuff he does for us.”

Burkes led Neshannock with 150 yards rushing on 16 carries and a score, while completing 11-of-18 passes for 61 yards and another touchdown. Eli Owens also crossed the century mark with 120 yards on 23 totes, while Oliva rushed for 39 yards and two scores on his 13 carries.

“Ernie is Ernie,” Mozzocio said. “Everybody talks about Lenny Williams and he’s a great player, too, but we have a great quarterback and a great playmaker here in Ernie Burkes. We knew it’d be a shootout coming in. I think they knew it was going to be a shootout, too.”

Meanwhile, Williams — who has scholarship offers from several Division I programs — lived up to the hype, spreading the ball between six different receivers for 287 yards and five touchdowns, while completing 15-of-27 passes.

Kirkland had three catches for 101 yards and three scores, while Clayburn pulled in four passes for 81 yards a touchdown.

“We thought we might be able to run the ball a little better than we did,” Bradley said. “They closed us down inside, so we spread them out. If we spread them out, we could really line up our protection. We were able to get guys open today.

“We had a few new wrinkles just like they did. We go through progressions and reads. If they cover this guy, then this guy will be open. If they cover these two guys, then go with the third (option).”

NOTES — Kirkland ended Neshannock’s first offensive possession with an interception in the endzone. ... Dovidio, Oliva, Medure, Seth Duiett and Steve Senko were credited with sacks for Neshannock. ... Rocco Fazio hauled in six Burkes passes for 10 yards, while Jefferies pulled in five aerials for 51 yards. ... With his five touchdown passes, Williams needs just one more scoring strike to move past former Sto-Rox great Adam DiMichele into the top spot in WPIAL annals ... .The game was televised on tape delay by Root Sports Pittsburgh.
GAME SCOREBOARD
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 OT SCORE
Neshannock 9 14 8 0 0 31
Sto-Rox 8 14 6 6 0 34
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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