By Andy Shay:
They danced and celebrated on Cottage Hill after the final whistle Saturday afternoon because for the first time since 2008, the Steel-High Rollers are going to play for a PIAA Championship.
The reason the Rollers are headed to Hershey is senior kicker Bryan Hernandez’s right foot. Yes, a kicker won a PIAA Class 1A semifinal for Steel-High with a 34-yard field goal inside the final minute.
Steel-High still had to hold its collective breath, though, in dying second. Bishop Guilfoyle hit on a 58-yard pass play and Marauders’ kicker, junior Deven Wyandt, had a chance to be the hero for his team with 11 seconds remaining.
Wyandt’s 36-yard field goal drifted wide left and Steel-High held on for a gritty 16-14 victory in a game dominated by tough defense.
“Snap was good, hold was good and I hit it perfectly,” Hernandez said. “I felt no pressure. I was confident the whole way through. This is amazing. We got one more to go.”
For the second week in a row it appeared as if the Rollers’ season was over in the final minute. Steel-High had fourth-and-13 from the Bishop Guilfoyle 28. Quarterback Alex Erby’s desperation heave was incomplete, but a flag on the play for defensive holding – the same exact penalty called a week earlier at Old Forge – moved the ball to the Marauders’ 18-yard-line.
Earlier in the fourth quarter when Steel-High took a 13-7 lead on a Mehki Flowers 87-yard touchdown catch-and-run, the Rollers were called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Rather than try a 35-yard extra point, Steel-High coach Andrew Erby opted not to try and kick the extra point.
Present with the exact same scenario again, coach Erby didn’t hesitate and sent Hernandez onto the field.
“Missing the two-point conversion the first time made my decision a lot easier to go win the game,” coach Erby said. “You know what’s special about Bryan Hernandez is he’s a soccer player who comes in and out. He started a t-shirt business, so he comes when he can but also works to support his family. He’s such a special kid.”
The final 42 seconds after taking the lead was a dicey proposition for the District 3 champions. Bishop Guilfoyle, a team that isn’t built to throw the ball, started at its own 36 with no timeouts remaining.
For the first time all game the Rollers defense was asleep at the wheel.
Marauders quarterback Konner Kiesewetter hit Haiden Garner over the middle and Garner outran a couple Rollers defenders on the crossing route for a 58-yard strike that took the ball down to the Steel-High 19.
Kiesewetter spiked the ball quickly and Bishop Guilfoyle had a legitimate chance to win a game it led most of the afternoon.
The difference, Hernandez made his kick and Wyandt just misfired left for the second time in the game.
“I thought we’d be able to move the ball. Their defense surprised us a little bit, said Flowers, who finished with 151 total yards and scored both the Rollers’ touchdowns. “Turnovers was our main problem the first half, but our defense stayed grounded and kept us in the game.”
Steel-High scored all 16 of its points in the fourth quarter after falling behind 7-0 on the first offensive snap from scrimmage. Rollers’ running back Odell Greene fumbled on the first snap and BG’s Keegan Myrick scooped it up and raced 33 yards to put the Marauders up 7-0.
It was still 7-0 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We got pumped in the fourth quarter,” Flowers said. “I had so much confidence in Bryan. Everyone was hyped up and nervous on the sideline. I wasn’t worried. I knew he had it.”
ROLLERS 16, MARAUDERS 14
Bishop Guilfoyle 7-0-0-7 — 14
Steel-High 0-0-0-16 — 16
BG-Keegan Myrick 33 fumble return (Deven Wyandt kick), 11:38
SH-Mehki Flowers 4 run (Bryan Hernandez kick), 11:03
SH-Flowers 87 pass from Alex Erby (pass failed), 6:28
BG-Myrick 6 run (Wyandt kick), 3:54
SH-FG Hernandez 34, :42
Team statistics BG SH
First downs 15 12
Rush-yards 44-122 33-177
Passing 185 151
Comp-Att-Int 7-13-0 8-16-2
Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-2
Punts-Avg. 4-27 2-25
Penalties-yards 8-45 10-83
RUSHING: Bishop Guilfoyle, Keegan Myrick 28-117, Konner Kiesewetter 4-(minus-4), Haiden Garner 7-(minus-1), Dylan McNeely 2-5, Zach McCloskey 2-6, Deven Wyandt 1-(minus-1); Steel-High, Odell Greene 25-131, Mehki Flowers 6-29, Damien Hammonds 3-17, Team 1-0.
PASSING: Bishop Guilfoyle, Kiesewetter 6-11-0—182, Garner 1-2-0—3; Steel-High, Alex Erby 8-16-2—151.
RECEIVING: Bishop Guilfoyle, Garner 2-86, JT Johnston 1-14, Myrick 2-26, Karson Kiesewetter 1-58, Konner Kiesewetter 1-3; Steel-High, Flowers 6-132, Greene 1-4, Zaheim Lewis 1-15.