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Serra Faces Wash High in Playoff’s First Round

McKeesport Tigers host Mars; East Allegheny travels to Mt. Pleasant

By Jason A. Mignanelli
The Tube City Almanac
November 04, 2022
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, North Versailles Twp. News, Sports

Serra Catholic’s Eagles will take on the Washington High School Prexies in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs tonight at the Norwin High School stadium.

The 7-3 Eagles are coming off of a 28-0 loss last week to the Steel Valley Ironmen (9-0). Tonight’s game is a rematch of the third game of the season, when Serra Catholic defeated Wash High (6-4) in a very close game, 35-34. 

“It is always difficult to beat a team twice,” said Michael Betler, assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Serra Catholic. “They have the added motivation of beating us since we won the last game. We have some film on them from last time, so we can see what they did against us, but I am sure they will make adjustments, just like we will.”

In other matchups of local interest, the 9-1 McKeesport Area Tigers were defeated by (7-3) Thomas Jefferson High School on Oct. 28 by a score of 20-10. McKeesport (5-1 in conference play) will have a home playoff game in the first round of the AAAA WPIAL football playoffs, and are hosting (6-4) Mars High School at 7 p.m.

East Allegheny (7-3) was defeated 42-10 by Shady Side Academy (5-4) on Oct. 28. The Wildcats are traveling to Mt. Pleasant High School (6-4) in the first round of the AAA WPIAL football playoffs. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

With last week’s victory over Serra, Steel Valley completed their regular season schedule undefeated.

The game started out close and the Eagles only gave up one score in the first quarter. During the second quarter, however, things began to unravel for Serra Catholic.

The Eagles gave up three touchdowns in the second quarter and couldn’t match the firepower of Steel Valley’s quarterback Cruce Bookings. Bookings accounted for all four touchdowns that Steel Valley scored in the game.

Bookings scored touchdowns on runs of four yards, 65 yards, three yards and 83 yards. Steel Valley had 499 total yards of offense and 18 first downs in the game. Serra Catholic had 169 total yards of offense.

“Bookings had a tremendous performance,” said Mike Antioci, long-time Serra Catholic statistician.

Considering the difference in the score, time of possession didn’t tell the tale: Serra Catholic had the ball for 20.58 minutes; Steel Valley only had the ball for 27.02 minutes.

Even though Bookings was unstoppable on offense, Serra Catholic did manage to put several good drives together and the defense kept Steel Valley off the scoreboard during the entire second half.

Serra Catholic had two passes intercepted inside the redzone.  Another time when Serra Catholic was on the goal line, an untimely holding penalty cost them and as a result they were stopped on downs.

“We had two bad turnovers and the turnover on downs,” Betler said. “I needed to make a better play call for the turnover on downs, so that one is completely on me.”

Serra Catholic knows they need to convert more of those opportunities, Betler said.

“We did have a heavy redzone period at practice this week. We have to score when we are down there, if nothing else, a field goal. We have a great kicker, so we have to at least get 3 points. When the weather gets cold, it becomes more of a defensive game, so we know we have the score any time we get close like that,” he said.

The loss was not enough to bump them out of the playoffs. The Eagles finished the season second in their conference which was good enough to earn them a home playoff game in the first round of the AA WPIAL football playoffs.

“We need to prepare for two quarterbacks who have different styles, just like our two-QB system. Wash High is extremely athletic and can compete with any team they play, so we know it will be a challenge (tonight). We are ready, however, to defend our title,” Betler said.

Jason A. Mignanelli is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh’s North Hills and a student at Duquesne University. He may be reached at mignanellij@duq.edu.

Originally published November 04, 2022.

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