NA Ground Game Runs Over Harrisburg In PIAA Semifinals, 24-12
The North Allegheny Tigers punched their ticket to the PIAA championship game for the first time since 2012 with a 24-12 victory over Harrisburg in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Mansion Park Stadium. Also appearing in the state semifinals for the first time in 11 years, the Tigers used a potent rushing attack and a rock solid defense to topple the three-time reigning District 3 champions and PIAA runners-up from a season ago.
North Allegheny’s special teams unit also played a pivotal role in the victory and set up the Tigers to score the first touchdown of the game. After Harrisburg’s first two drives went nowhere, senior Evan Lyon returned a punt 21 yards to the Cougars 40-yard line. The Tigers capitalized on the short field and marched 40 yards in seven plays, culminating the possession with an 8-yard touchdown run by Tyree Alualu for a 7-0 lead with 3:29 left in the first quarter.
Following another three-and-out by the Cougars, the Tigers began their next drive at their own 45-yard line. North Allegheny put together a nine-play drive, keyed by a 27-yard gain by Lyon on a reverse to the Harrisburg 11-yard line. Five plays later, senior quarterback Logan Kushner walked into the end zone untouched for a 1-yard scoring run and a 14-0 lead with 11:04 on the second quarter clock.
With Harrisburg’s offense stuck in neutral, the Cougars punted to Lyon after another three-and-out and he returned it 23 yards to the Cougars 37-yard line. The Tigers turned the short field into more points thanks to a 42-yard field goal by Peter Notaro and the lead expanded to 17-0 with 8:41 left in the second quarter.
Midway through the second period, North Allegheny seemed poised to gain a strangle hold of the contest with a 4th and goal at the Harrisburg 1-yard line. However, the Cougars stonewalled the Tigers on a QB sneak attempt with 4:51 to play before halftime. Despite facing the NA defense with the length of the field in front of them, the Cougars scored their first touchdown of the game when quarterback Shawn Lee Jr. tossed an 82-yard scoring strike to Quincy Brannon Jr. to trim the score to 17-6, Tigers, with 4:05 left in the second quarter. The extra point kick failed for Harrisburg, keeping NA’s lead at 11 points.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, the North Allegheny ground game asserted its dominance and put together a six-play, 64-yard march. Junior running back Liam Flaherty carried the ball four times on the drive for 29 yards and Kushner, who toted the ball two times on the possession, scored on a 9-yard scamper to increase the NA lead to 24-6 with 8:32 remaining in the third period.
From there, North Allegheny controlled the football and the clock and outrushed Harrisburg, 267-124, on the afternoon. The Tigers attempted only six passes in the game.
With time winding down in the fourth quarter, the Cougars kept hope alive with a 15-yard touchdown pass by Lee to Brannon, trimming the score to 24-12, Tigers, with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter. North Allegheny recovered the ensuing onside kick and held on to the football for the remaining minutes to cap off a 24-12 victory.
Kushner rushed for a game-high 164 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns for Wright Automotive Player of the Game honors. Flaherty totaled 15 carries for 54 yards. Flaherty was also the leading tackler on defense with 12 stops. The NA defense forced one turnover on an interception by linebacker Dylan Langdon in the second quarter.
Lee was a bright spot for Harrisburg with 104 yards rushing, most of which came in the fourth quarter, and 210 yards passing and two touchdowns. Brannon was the leading receiver for the Cougars with four catches for 115 yards and two scores.
North Allegheny improves to 13-1 on the season, while Harrisburg’s season comes to a close with a 12-2 record. The Tigers will advance to the PIAA Class 6A championship to face St. Joseph’s Prep, the eighth-ranked team in the country in the latest USA Today Top 25 poll. The game will be broadcast live by the North Allegheny Sports Network.
Football Summary vs. Harrisburg, 12-2-23
|SCORE BY QUARTERS