Woodland Hills Shutsout Gateway 10-0
Written by: Billy Splain on Saturday, November 28th, 2009
PITTSBURGH-Given that Gateway was the top overall seed in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, and Woodland Hills was the second seed, it was only fitting that the last championship game of the day feature the two heavyweights of the league. And in the primetime slot at 8:00 p.m., the bright lights at Heinz Field were on for two of the area’s heavy hitters.
But like every heavyweight bout, it wasn’t a matter of who could hit the hardest; it was a matter of who could take the most hits and survive. In this game, Woodland Hills did all it could to survive, outlasting Gateway, 10-0, and giving the Wolverines their first league title since 2002.
“This team doesn’t get intimidated,” Woodland Hills head coach George Novak said after the game. “They came out against a very good football team and played hard. They fought the whole way.”
Gateway (12-1), who fell short in their third straight WPIAL championship game, dropped their only loss of the season by running into some old habits from last season’s 10-6 championship loss to Bethel Park. For the second year in a row, the Gators fumbled the opening kickoff, and, for the second year in a row, their first drive ended in a turnover, as Dayonne Nunley’s fumble was recovered by Woodland Hills’ Richard Gray.
The first of those plays gave Woodland Hills the ball on the Gateway 37-yard line, and the Wolverines drove all the way down inside the 6. But the Gators’ defense kept them out of the end zone, forcing them to settle for a 23-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Sam Scifo and a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Woodland Hills struck again in the second quarter when senior receiver Jayron Polk took a double reverse 14 yards for a touchdown, extending their lead to 10. Surprisingly, that’s where the scoring ended.
Woodland Hills drove deep into Gateway territory midway through the second quarter looking to extend their lead, but John Yezovich’s pass into the end zone was intercepted by Dondi Kirby, Jr. Later in the quarter, the Wolverines had the ball near midfield with a minute remaining, but senior fullback Cameron Thompkins fumbled and it was recovered by Gateway’s Greg Coleman, ending the threat.
The game was a disappointing show for both offenses, with no scoring coming in the second half and both teams combining for 325 yards of total offense. Gateway, one of scoring offenses in the WPIAL, gained only 148 yards on 56 plays, while Woodland Hills gained 177 on 50 plays.
Quarterback Rob Kalkstein – the only WPIAL Quad-A quarterback in history to throw for 6,000 career yards – completed only nine of 30 passes for 118 yards and two interceptions. For the second straight year, the Gators held their opponents to only 10 points in a championship game, but couldn’t put points on the board themselves.
Woodland Hills’ senior running back Dom Timbers, a former Clearview Student-Athlete of the Week, rushed for 72 yards on 19 carries, and sat out most of the second half with an undisclosed injury. Due to injuries to Timbers, Thompkins, and backup tailback Lafayette Pitts, the Wolverines had to dig deep into their depth chart to fill the void.
“We had a lot of guys hurt going into this game,” Novak said, “but they wanted to play, and they played through it. I’m very proud of this group and how tough they are.”
Gateway’s best opportunity to seize momentum in the second half came in the fourth quarter, after a 25-yard punt by Yezovich out of his own end zone gave the Gators the ball on the Woodland Hills’ 28 with just over six minutes remaining. But Kalkstein’s second down pass was intercepted by sophomore middle linebacker Mike Caprara, all but assuring victory for the Wolverines.
Kalkstein’s second interception came at the hands of Dahrayl Smith with 1:20 remaining, but by then the game was already in hand.
Woodland Hills (12-1) will go on to face State College (10-2) in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA playoffs at Mansion Park in Altoona next Friday at 7 p.m.
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