NA Battles Harrisburg For First Time In PIAA Class 6A Semifinals

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Appearing in the state’s Final Four for the first time since 2012, the North Allegheny Tigers (12-1) will battle the Harrisburg Cougars (12-1) in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona, PA. With a trip to the state championship game at stake, the Tigers and Cougars will meet for the first time ever.

The route to the state semifinals has been similar for both team. North Allegheny atoned for its only loss of the year with a 44-41 win over Central Catholic in the WPIAL championship game and won their eighth consecutive game last week with a 41-7 drubbing of McDowell in the PIAA quarterfinals.

Harrisburg’s only loss came in week two to Manheim Township, 38-6, on Sept. 9. Since that game, the Cougars have won 10 in a row, including a 34-28 overtime rematch with Manheim Township in the District 3 championship game. In that game, Harrisburg rallied from a 28-7 deficit in the second half to claim the win. Quarterback Shawn Lee Jr. tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Elias Coke with 23 seconds left, and the duo connected again on a two-point conversion to tie the game at 28-28. Junior running back Nehemiah Ewell provided the game-winning points with a short touchdown run in overtime.

The similarities don’t end there. Both teams boast outstanding dual-threat quarterbacks. North Allegheny senior Logan Kushner received his first Division I offer from Davidson after rushing for a career-high 240 yards and accounting for six touchdowns against Central Catholic in the WPIAL championship. On the season, Kushner has passed for 1,589 yards and 23 touchdowns, and has rushed for 1,209 yards and 21 rushing scores.

Lee has also been a reliable multi-purpose threat at QB for Harrisburg, passing for 2,046 yards and 24 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,405 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. Lee has Division I offers from N.C. State, Iowa State and Kent State. With a variety of offensive weapons, Harrisburg’s leading receiver Elias Coke has 20 D-I offers and has reeled in 42 passes for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ewell is the top running back for the Cougars with 1,194 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns.

The Harrisburg offensive line is bookended by a pair of D-I recruits as well. Senior Sir-Kayne Venable anchors the left tackle spot and sophomore Kevin Brown is the starting right tackle. North Allegheny boasts an offensive front with a bevy of All-Conference performers, including senior left tackle Cameron Chmura. The Marshall commit is a Bill Fralic Award finalist and will have to miss today’s award ceremony, but he will have a different prize in mind when he takes the field with North Allegheny in the PIAA semifinals.

North Allegheny is 3-1 all-time in PIAA semifinal games and is vying for a fourth PIAA championship. Harrisburg was the state runner-up in Class 6A a year ago is hoping to win its first PIAA crown this season.

The last time the Tigers played in a PIAA semifinal game, they defeated West Lawn Wilson, 45-10, in 2012. Wilson’s Jesse Poore (Johns Hopkins) returned the opening kickoff 85-yard for a touchdown, but it was the only touchdown the Bulldogs would score as NA won in a blowout. Quarterback Mack Leftwich (UTEP) passed for 217 yards and three touchdowns, and the NA defense limited Wilson to a scant 103 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers.

Kickoff for today’s game is set for 1:05 p.m. at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona. As always, the game will be broadcast live by the North Allegheny Sports Network with hometown broadcasters Randy Gore and Jonathan Spina. The pregame show will get underway at 12:45 p.m., including a pregame interview with Tigers head coach Art Walker. To listen to today’s FREE broadcast on the NA Sports Network, click here.