Upper St. Clair already very familiar with McKeesport’s triple-option offense

November 26, 2018

McKeesport’s flexbone offense requires some binge watching for playoff opponents unfamiliar with the triple-option, a scheme seldom seen by most WPIAL teams.

On a short week like this, it’s a real advantage.

“I like to play people who haven’t seen our offense,” McKeesport coach Matt Miller said. “I don’t want someone to be that familiar with what we do. You like it to be the first time they’ve seen it in five, six or seven years.”

So, Upper St. Clair wasn’t his first choice.

The two teams are in separate conferences yet they’ll meet for the fourth time in three years Friday night. No. 7 seed McKeesport (8-2) hosts No. 10 Upper St. Clair (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. in the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

The teams played once in 2017 and twice in 2016. McKeesport won all three.

“The fact that we’ve played them in the past helps a little bit,” USC coach Jim Render said. “We have pretty good ideas about their offense. But it’s still hard to simulate in practice because they do this stuff week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out. You take your young kids and try to duplicate what they do.”

This year’s flexbone features quarterback Konata Gaskins (6-1, 190), slotbacks Devin Sims (5-10, 175) and Quaran Sayles (5-9, 160) and fullback Marcquis Butler (6-0, 205). All four are seniors.

The offense is based on misdirection: the quarterback can hand the ball to the fullback, run it himself or pitch to a slotback. Combined, McKeesport has rushed for more than 2,700 yards this season led by Gaskins with 558

“People say they practice without footballs and do all these things (to prepare),” Miller said. “I remember the triple-option the first time I saw it in ninth grade. I swore the fullback had it. I would have bet my life on it ... and there’s the quarterback running down the field.”

Gaskins also has thrown for nearly 700 yards and 12 touchdowns, adding some balance to McKeesport’s offense. Deamontae Diggs, a 6-foot-5 receiver, has four touchdowns.

“You see teams that want to put nine or 10 guys in the box,” Miller said. “So it definitely helps us out for sure.”

USC’s offense shows good balance. Running back Antonio Orsini has around 1,000 rushing yards, and quarterback Jason Sweeney has passed for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Sweeney’s top targets are brothers Chris and David Pantellis, who’ve combined for 74 catches and more than 1,100 yards. Chris Pantellis has seven touchdowns and David has six.

“We have a good running back and we have a good group of receivers,” Render said. “The Pantellis boys have been as good of a pair of receivers as I’ve ever had.”

Both teams were positioned for a middle seed in the 16-team bracket. McKeesport finished third in the Big East. Upper St. Clair was tied for third in the Allegheny Eight. Knowing their recent head-to-head history, both coaches predicted this would be the matchup the WPIAL gave them.

“We practiced on Monday with the idea that it would probably be McKeesport,” Render said.

“After we lost (on Friday) we came back to the stadium and wrote down everybody,” Miller said. “That’s who we figured we’d get again. We always seem to get Upper St. Clair.”

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