NA uses flash, power to knock off COF Academy
Joey Porter Jr. dazzled thousands at Newman Stadium on a play that took an eternity in football time.
North Allegheny’s star two-way player spun off of and ran through a litany of would-be COF Academy tacklers in the first quarter during a 45-yard punt return that involved as much east-to-west running as it did north-to-south. He was almost taken down across midfield before he could break away for the end zone.
The return by Porter, who suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter, was a harsh contrast to a game dominated by the Tigers bruising run game.
North Allegheny won 45 - 20 by heavily relying on its offensive line and Ben Maenza to fuel the offense. Maenza ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns, but two fumbles showed that ball security was the lone black mark of his game.
“We’ve got to get better with the little things,” North Allegheny head coach Art Walker said. “We talked about the first half where offensively we played with nine or 10 (players) on certain plays, because we had mental errors (on) blockings assignments, the wrong route, dropped a pass (or) fumbled or a bad exchange. And defensively we played well and put our guys in a situation.”
One of Maenza’s fumbles allowed COF Academy to take over at North Allegheny’s 5-yard-line. The Ironmen secured its first lead in program history - the team was formed in 2018 - with a Rodney Atkins 1-yard run with 9:57 left in the second quarter to put the visitors up 12-8. The touchdown followed the team’s first score by running back Mario Agyen less than two minutes earlier.
North Allegheny retook the lead with 4:25 left in the second quarter on a drive that featured 13 run plays and 65 yards between Maenza, Nikko Rankin, Sam Gelosh and Alfonso Cantu.
Maenza muscled his way through a mosh pit of bodies for a 3-yard rushing touchdown .
Porter also found the endzone to start the second half on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Ben Petschke for the game-winning score. Walker said Porter’s knee injury will be evaluated over the weekend.
“I thought the guys did a great job in second half, played lights out, created turnovers, and we just have to worry about getting better.” Walker said. ”(COF) had a tough one last week, and you’ve got to give them credit. It was important for us to respond (to their early lead).”
COF Academy head coach Paul Williams said the first half foreshadowed a future of success for the Columbus, Ohio team in its first season. The Ironmen will focus on embracing its early triumphs and learning from its late mistakes, which allowed the Tigers to outscore them 27-8 in the second half.
“I think we had intensity, played hard, still made some mistakes, and we just gotta get better in practice and gel,” Williams said. “We did good stuff in the first half and the second half, but (North Allegheny’s a great team. It’s western PA football, and you’ve got to play four quarters. We got a lot better from last week to this week, and we’ll get back to work and get better.”