Top-ranked Gateway rolls over Kiski Area in WPIAL Class 5A first round
Sam Albert proclaimed Gateway the top Class 5A football team in the state after Kiski Area drew the top-seeded Gators in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs.
The Gators will need to prove that over the next month-plus, but they certainly made a strong case against Albert’s Cavaliers.
Defending WPIAL champion Gateway made quick work of Kiski Area, rolling up a seven-touchdown lead by halftime and finishing with a 63-7 rout in a WPIAL Class 5A first-round game Friday night at Antimarino Stadium.
“What you saw was an excellent football team,” Albert said. “Great skill, good size, and they’re coached unbelievable. ... There are no weaknesses.”
Derrick Davis rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, and Jaquan Thomas added 111 yards and two scores on just six rushes for No. 1 Gateway (11-0), which piled up more than 450 yards and held Kiski Area scoreless until late in the fourth quarter.
The Gators, who led 5A in scoring offense and scoring defense during the regular season, led 20-0 after the first quarter and 49-0 at halftime to put the mercy rule into effect for the entire second half.
“It was kind of one of those games where the score got out of hand, but we’re going to look at the film. There’s definitely some things that we did really well, and we’re going to find lots of things we need to get better at,” Gateway coach Don Holl said. “Our mantra has been let’s keep getting better at getting better. Let’s keep improving. Let’s keep finding ways to get closer to the perfect game, and we’ve still got a long way to go.
“We did a lot of good things. A lot of credit (goes) to their team: They have a lot of hard-nosed, tough kids who play hard every snap. ... They play hard. They play with a lot of grit, and that reflects Sam. He’s a (heck) of a coach.”
No. 16 Kiski Area (3-8) won three of its first four games on the strength of an offense that was breaking school records.
But the Cavaliers (3-8), making their first playoff appearance since 2015, more than met their match against Gateway.
The Gators have talent at every skill position: Davis, a sophomore with high-end Division I offers already; Syracuse commit Courtney Jackson and Jeremiah Josephs at WR/DB; and Thomas, a 5-foot-9 junior reserve RB/DB.
Those players all found the end zone Friday.
With first-year starting quarterback Brendan Majocha directing a fast-paced no-huddle offense, Gateway moved the ball at will. Davis scored on runs of 31, 1 and 2 yards, and Thomas on runs of 1 and 35. Majocha totaled 146 yards and a pair of scores. Josephs caught a 5-yard touchdown, and Jackson scored on a 48-yard punt return.
“We stuck to the coaches’ gameplan,” Davis said. “They were giving us different looks, but we just executed, that’s all.
“It’s great (to have several skill players), honestly, because it frees up most of our other players and gives them an opportunity to make plays.”
Kiski Area tried three quarterbacks: starter Ryne Wallace and backups Ethan Guercio and Thomas Burke. The Cavaliers turned the ball over four times and gave up a safety when a punt snap went out of the back of the end zone.
“We knew we couldn’t match up, and then, of course, we made a hundred mistakes, too, which doesn’t help,” Albert said.
Kiski Area senior Jack Colecchi broke the school record for receiving yards, catching five passes for 32 yards. Senior Drew Dinunzio-Biss rushed for 78 yards, and senior Andrew Mason caught a late 56-yard touchdown pass from Guercio.
“We’re proud of the seniors,” Albert said. “They fought all year. I’m proud of our kids’ effort. They played hard.”
Gateway will play No. 9 Franklin Regional in the Class 5A quarterfinals next week at a site and time to be determined. The Gators beat their Big East Conference rivals, 63-3, earlier this season.
“They’re a great rivalry,” Holl said. “We’re excited.”