Seneca Valley Edges Mt. Lebanon 17-14 in Nail-Biter
Written by: Phil Myers on Sunday, September 16th, 2018
There were many nervous individuals on both sides in the final few minutes of Friday night’s game at NexTier Stadium in Harmony, a game which saw Seneca Valley nip Mount Lebanon 17-14 in a key 6A District 7 matchup.
This was a game where the defenses and big plays ruled the day. In the end, it was Seneca Valley’s defense and offense that played just a whisker better. The defense gets the nod due to forcing two key turnovers and keeping Mt. Lebo off the scoreboard on four occasions when the Blue Devils penetrated into Raider territory. The offensive advantage comes because they had one more big play than Mount Lebanon did.
The home team’s first big play came after a short 16-yard punt by Mt. Lebo that gave the ball to Seneca Valley at the Blue Devil 42. The Raiders faced a third and 25 from their own forty-three after a sack by Mt. Lebo’s Evan Jones. QB Gabe Lawson was pressured again and had to scramble before flicking a nice pass to Josh McLean for a 37-yard gain to the Lebo 20. Five plays later Lawson scored on a sneak and Seth Winters booted the PAT to give the Raidahs (as the public address announcer says) the 7-0 lead with 4:20 left in the first quarter.
Mount Lebanon’s initial big play came 10 seconds into the second stanza when QB Seth Morgan was being chased and made a great throw to Carter Davidson for a 47-yard touchdown. Casey Sorsdal kicked the point after to tie the game at 7. Neither team did much the rest of the half, although the Blue Devils made it into Raider territory twice. They were thwarted by a sack the first time and later by a McLean interception.
Mt. Lebanon received the 2nd half kickoff and on the first play disaster reared its ugly head. The Blue Devil running back carried the ball for about 10 yards and maybe a first down, but he fumbled the pigskin forward another 7 before Conor Hayes pounced on it for the Raiders. “The game came down to mistakes you know, we turned the ball over to start the second half and that was exactly what I told them we couldn’t do,” stated the dejected Blue Devil head coach, Mike Melnyk.
On the next play Lawson found Luke Smith in stride for a 37-yard score and SV went up 14-7 only fourteen seconds into the third quarter. That was big play number two for the Raiders. Mount Lebanon punted to end their next possession and Seneca Valley took over on the Mt. Lebo 48. On second down Lawson hit Connor Lyczek for 42 yards to the Blue Devil 4-yard line. This turned out to be the Raiders final big play, but it was a big one. The visitors’ defense stiffened and held the ‘Raidahs’ to a Winters 20-yard field goal. With 7:50 still remaining in the third it was Seneca Valley up by ten, 17-7.
Each team punted twice in the next five minutes. Michael Palmer returned the second Seneca Valley punt 26 yards to the Blue Devil 41. On second down from the 47, Coach Melnyk resorted to some trickery for his team’s second and final big play of the game. An end around found Lucas Decaro carrying the ball, then he stopped and fired a pass to a wide-open Tim Walters for a 53-yard touchdown. Now Mt. Lebanon felt the momentum swing their way as they climbed to within three, 17-14. That momentum carried into the fourth quarter.
The game came down to the last quarter and it was Seneca Valley’s defense that stepped up to protect the Raiders’ precarious lead. Mount Lebanon had three chances in that fourth quarter to at least tie the game but could not score even though they threatened twice, thanks to Seneca’s solid defensive play. “We were confident in our scheme with our defensive coordinator putting guys in the right positions,” commented Raider head coach Ron Butschle.
The Blue Devils drove to the Raider 23 before stalling early in the fourth. The subsequent 41-yard field goal attempt was off the mark, preserving Valley’s three-point lead. With 3:51 left Mt. Lebo’s next drive fizzled at the Seneca Valley 40 as a result of an incomplete pass on fourth down. The Raider defense only allowed two yards on the visitors’ final possession, taking over at the Blue Devil 23 and running out the clock. A happy coach Butschle said, “I’m really proud of our kids for grinding it out.”
Game Notes: There were 17 punts in this game. Mount Lebanon outgained Seneca Valley in total yards 275 to 202. The Blue Devils had 6 plays go for 171 yards, with the other 57 plays accounting for 104 yards. The Raiders had 116 of their 202 yards on only three plays. The other 55 plays gained 86 yards. Both coaches agreed before the game that this was an important contest as far as positioning for the playoffs goes. Both bands did a really nice job at half time, especially Seneca Valley as they played a personal favorite, ‘School’s Out.’ Mount Lebanon, now 2-2, hosts undefeated North Allegheny next Friday and Seneca Valley, 3-1, travels to Butler.
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