WEXFORD – Oh how sweet it is, Farrell’s headed back to Chocolatetown for the second straight season.
After graduating 4 Division I athletes from its state-championship team a year ago, the Steelers won their 12th straight game and punched their ticket to the PIAA Class 1A championship game with a thrilling 13-10 victory over WPIAL champion Clairton Friday evening at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium.
“(Clairton) plays hard and we knew it was going to be a dog fight,” an emotional first-year Farrell coach Anthony ‘Amp’ Pegues said. “We knew it was going to come down to who wanted it more. My kids have been in this position for a long time – 5 years in a row – so they know what it takes.
“My kids are resilient. There was a point when they could’ve broke, but they stayed with it and now we’re going to Hershey!”
Farrell (13-2) will meet District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle – an 11-7 winner over District 2 titlist Lackawanna Trail – at 1 p.m. Thursday at Hersheypark Stadium.
The Marauders (12-2) – who won 3-straight titles between 2014-16 – blanked the Steelers 35-0 in the 2015 state championship game and are making their fourth trip to Hershey in six years.
“We exorcised one of our demons (by beating Clairton),” Pegues said. “Now, we’re going for back-to-back (titles). (Bishop Guilfoyle) shut us out in 2015 and we’ve been talking about that. We want to exorcise that demon as well.”
The Steelers are headed back to Hershey thanks in large part to defensive coordinator Omar Stewart’s opportunistic defense. Farrell sacked Bears quarterback Brendan Parsons 8 times and forced Clairton into 5 turnovers.
Sayvion Thomas (5) and Brian Hilton combined for all eight sacks, while Marion Odem (2) and Brice Butler intercepted Parsons 3 times. Anthony Jackson also recovered a fumble in the end zone for the Steelers.
“Coach Omar Stewart, Bucky Newell and Coach Lamont Samuels, the guys on the defensive side of the ball are amazing,” Pegues said. “They all could’ve been head coaches if they wanted to. They made the adjustments on the defensive side of the ball. My defensive guys locked it down. You win championships with defense, you know what I mean? We won this game tonight because of our defense. Sayvion (Thomas), Brian (Hilton Jr.) and the other guys on our defensive front did what they needed to do.”
Trailing 10-7 entering the second half, the Steelers reshuffled the deck and found running lanes. After being limited to just 11 yards on 7 totes in the first half, Anthony Stallworth ripped off a 59-yard run to put Farrell ahead 13-10 with 1:46 left in the third quarter and finished the game with a game-high 104 yards rushing.
“We knew we had to get the running game going,” Pegues said. “Anthony Stallworth broke some tackles. The O-line started doing what they do best. With the big guys we have up front, we knew eventually Clairton was going to wear down.
“We’re much bigger than they are ... when those big guys are just leaning on you, you could see (Clairton) was gassing by the time we got to the fourth quarter.”
“Early on, we tried to go with 2-back sets, but they were loading up on us. In the second half, we decided to open up. We told Stallworth that he’d have to do a lot of work on his own. He hit the big home run to give us the lead.”
Farrell grabbed a 7-0 lead on its second possession of the evening on a 56-yard scamper from quarterback Ray Raver Jr.
The second quarter was all Clairton with a 34-yard strike from Parsons to favorite target Kenlein Ogletree and a 24-yard field goal from Ogletree on an untimed down after a Farrell defensive pass interference on the last timed play of the half.
“We felt like we didn’t play our best half,” Pegues said. “We felt like (Clairton) played their best half.
“I told (the Steelers players) at halftime that I needed 120 percent and if they gave that to us, we’d win the game. They gave that to us and we were able to win the game.”
Notes: Clairton had won 4 straight (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016) against the Steelers prior to Friday evening. ... Both teams had double digit penalties. Farrell had 11 penalties for 104 yards and the Bears had 102 yards walked off on 10 whistles. ... Stallworth led Farrell with 104 yards rushing, while Raver chipped in 64. ... Parsons and Isaiah Berry each finished with 53 yards rushing, while Parsons completed 9-of-19 passes for 131 yards. ... Ogletree pulled in 5 catches for 89 yards. ... Clairton held a 16-7 advantage in first downs.
PIAA CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
FARRELL 7 0 6 0 13
CLAIRTON 0 10 0 0 10
F –– Raver, 56 run (Hilton kick)
C –– Ogletree, 34 pass from Parsons (Ogletree kick)
C –– Ogletree, 24 field goal
F –– Stallworth, 59 run (kick blocked)
7 First downs 16
181 Rushing yards 113
5 Passing yards 131
186 Total yards 244
8-1-1 Att-comp-int 19-9-3
1-0 Fumbles-lost 3-2
11-104 Penalties-yards 10-102
Rushing: FARRELL –– Stallworth 17-104, Raver 14-64, Harrison 4-8, Jackson 1-4, Hammonds 1-1; CLAIRTON –– Parsons 19-53, Berry 10-53, Sanders 5-26, team 1-(-19).
Passing: FARRELL –– Raver 1-8-1 5; CLAIRTON –– Parsons 9-19-3 131.
Receiving: FARRELL –– Hilton 1-5; CLAIRTON –– Ogletree 5-89, Askew 1-26, Cannon 1-13, Cobb 1-2, Sanders 1-1.