Tigers Begin Quest For State Title, Host McDowell In PIAA Quarterfinals Tonight
For the second time this season, the WPIAL champion North Allegheny Tigers (11-1) will matchup with the District 10 champion McDowell Trojans (8-4). In week two, the Tigers traveled to Erie and defeated the Trojans, 43-24, in a non-conference contest. In the rematch tonight, a trip to the state semifinals is at stake as NA and McDowell will duel in the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals at Newman Stadium.
In the week two meeting, North Allegheny built a 16-0 lead before McDowell cut the deficit to five in the third quarter, 22-17. Senior Evan Lyon responded with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and the Tigers pulled away in the second half en route to the win. Lyon finished with three total touchdowns, including two receiving. Senior running back Tyree Alualu also had a three-touchdown performance, rushing for all three of his scores and a career-high 154 yards. The NA defense played a bend-but-don’t break style against McDowell, surrendering a career-high 325 yards to junior quarterback Blayze Myers, but also standing tall for three crucial red zone stops. The Tigers intercepted Myers twice, one leaping pick in the red zone by senior Daniel Sellers, and another by junior Colman Craft that helped put the game away in the second half.
The Tigers enter tonight’s game winners of seven in a row and atoned for their only blemish of the season last week by winning a 44-41 thriller over Central Catholic in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game. In one of the all-time performances ever seen in a WPIAL championship, senior quarterback Logan Kushner rushed for a career-high 240 yards and four touchdowns. He finished with 347 total yards and six total scores, dialing up to long-distance passing strikes to senior receiver Khiryn Boyd. The NA defense forced three critical turnovers in the victory, including fumble recoveries by Alualu and senior lineman Ryan Ranallo. Junior safety James Donaldson had a diving interception in a tide-turning second quarter.
McDowell, meanwhile, has tested itself with a tough non-conference schedule and has won six of the last seven games coming into to tonight’s contest. Last week, McDowell defeated State College in the PIAA first round by a 47-20 decision. Senior running back Dominick Berarducci rushed for a career-high 229 yards and three touchdowns, while junior Stephon Porter added another 80 yards and a rushing score. The victory snapped a six-game losing streak for McDowell against State College in the head-to-head series. Last season, State College eliminated both McDowell and North Allegheny in the PIAA playoffs.
Berarducci is a speedy wing-back that lines up all over the field and has an offer from NCAA Division III powerhouse Mount Union. Porter is a bruising back that compliments Berarducci with his punishing style. The rushing duo has amassed 1,320 combined yards and 20 combined touchdowns. Myers, a first-team All-District quarterback, has passed for 2,632 yards and 32 touchdowns. The headliner for McDowell is 6-7, 315-pound center and defensive lineman, Cooper Cousins. Cousins is a Penn State commit and was named the Region Co-Player of the Year in Erie for this season.
The last time North Allegheny and McDowell met in the PIAA playoffs was in quarterfinal round of the 2012 postseason. The Tigers won that contest, 56-6, on their way to a state championship. Quarterback Mack Leftwich, who was later named Pennsylvania’s Class 4A Player of the Year, threw for five touchdowns and rushed for another. The Tigers defense held future NFL running back James Conner to just 36 yards on nine carries. Elijah Ziese also had a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown in the win.
Kickoff for tonight’s PIAA quarterfinal contest is set for 7:00 p.m. at Newman Stadium. The game will be broadcast live by the North Allegheny Sports Network. Join Randy Gore and Jonathan Spina for the call with the pregame show set to begin at 6:40 p.m., including a pregame chat with Tigers head coach Art Walker. To listen to tonight’s game, click here.