For the third time in his four-year career, Steel-High quarterback Alex Erby steered his team to the PIAA Class 1A championship game.
The United State Naval Academy commit and the Rollers are gunning for back-to-back championships after they easily dispatched South Williamsport 48-21 Friday night in Shamokin.
The all-time passing yards leader in Pennsylvania history is 2-0 in championship games, and this team is dialed in at another level right now with 91 points in its last two state playoff games.
Erby had four touchdowns by halftime, three passing and one rushing, as the Rollers raced to a 35-7 halftime cushion on the strength of 21 consecutive points to start the game. The senior finished with 229 passing yards, completing 13 of 18 passes.
And don’t be fooled by the final four-touchdown margin. It wasn’t that close.
Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter the running clock kicked in on a Ronald Burnette 23-yard touchdown run. Burnette finished with 116 yards on only 12 carries.
The mercy rule would have gone into effect midway through the third quarter, but the Rollers missed an extra point and led 41-7. For the most part, like many regular season games for Steel-High, the competitive phase of this one was over by halftime.
South Williamsport might have scored 21 points, but two of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter after the mercy rule was in full bloom. Through 36 minutes, the Rollers’ D allowed only one touchdown.
Thursday’s state title game should be something special. Steel-High and WPIAL champion Fort Cherry are both 14-0 this season. The Rangers’ defense surrendered less than 13 points a game this season. How enticing is that matchup?
Special teams lets down Bishop McDevitt in stunning upset
When you climb to the upper reaches of the PIAA championships, all three phases of the game are, obviously, critical. Special teams matter, too.
Dallas pulled off a massive upset in the PIAA Class 4A semifinal round by knocking off defending state champion Bishop McDevitt 26-23 in double overtime and bringing the Crusaders’ reign as champions and their 26-game winning streak to a halt.
Make no mistake, this is a massive upset.
The undefeated Mounts played excellent defense against the high-powered Crusaders’ offense, limiting it to fewer than 300 total yards. And that was a critical piece of the puzzle.
But the real difference-maker for the District 2 champions was special teams. They dominated, and that cleared the path for the upset.
Dallas blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, recovered a fumble on a kickoff and opened the second half with a deliciously well-executed onside kick. And most importantly it blocked a PAT in regulation, then blocked a field goal in the second OT to set up the opportunity to kick the game winner on second down.
That’s a ton of mistakes by one team (McDevitt) and the other squad (Dallas) taking full advantage of those miscues. It’s a minor miracle the Crusaders even made it to extra time with that many mistakes in one phase of the game.
McDevitt’s defense surrendered one touchdown in regulation — on a short field after the fumbled kickoff return — and allowed less than 200 yards of total offense. And the Crusaders lost the game.
That high-octane offense we saw all regular season and early in the playoffs sputtered for long stretches last week, and that continued in this one.
And no matter how well the defense or offense plays or how much talent the roster has, that many miscues that cost you points on special teams is nearly impossible to overcome.