TRANSFER – Friday marked the official start of high school basketball practices across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A common notion in that sport is that the first four minutes of the second half are the most important in a game.
Unfortunately, the Reynolds Raiders learned Friday night that the first four minutes of the second half can be quite pivotal in a football game.
District 7 champion Jeannette scored a pair of quick touchdowns in the third quarter to break open Friday night’s PIAA Class 1A state semifinal as the visiting Jayhawks stormed to a 48-12 win over Reynolds (9-1).
Jeannette (10-1) led 14-6 at halftime but scored 27 straight points in a nine-minute span in the third quarter.
Reynolds received the second half kickoff but started on its own 15. A punt into the wind gave Jeannette possession at the Raiders’ 40 and three plays later, running back-turned-quarterback Roberto Smith, Jr. scrambled into the end zone on a 12-yard run with 9:23 left in the third quarter.
A bad punt snap on Reynolds’ next drive gave Jeannette possession at the 5. Jaydin Canady scored on a five-yard run on the ensuing play, pushing the lead to 28-6.
“If you come out and make as many errors as we did in the second half against a really good football team, it gets away from you,” Reynolds head coach Josh Mull said. “Jeannette’s a great football team. I hope they do well next week down in Hershey.”
Smith’s four-yard touchdown run opened the scoring with 1:49 left in the first quarter.
Reynolds pulled to within 7-6 midway through the second quarter as sophomore quarterback Brayden McCloskey scored on a three-yard run over right guard. McCloskey’s score capped an 11-play drive that used 5:26 of clock.
Reynolds misfired on the conversion snap, though, keeping the margin 7-6.
Jeannette quickly answered as Smith threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to James Sanders with 4:05 left in the half.
The Raiders stopped Jeannette at the 11 on the final possession of the half. Smith’s pass to the end zone sailed out of bounds as time expired.
Reynolds held Jeannette to five rushing yards in the first half.
“I can’t be prouder of our kids,” Mull said. “They kept coming and they fought. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Jeannette entered the game with District 7’s top scoring defense among Class 1A teams, allowing only 12 points per game. The Jayhawks held Reynolds’ powerful rushing attack to 61 yards on 24 carries in the first half.
“We tried to do what we do. They had a good game plan for us and stopped us,” Mull said. “We found some different things that starting working. It was a game of chess in the first half.”
Senior halfback Cole Toy closed the scoring with 2:24 remaining as he scored on a two-yard run. He led Reynolds with 82 yards on 14 carries. Toy finished the season with 1,320 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns.
Sophomore Jalen Wagner added 63 yards on 16 carries.
Smith completed 6 of 14 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown for Jeannette. He also ran for three touchdowns. Sanders caught three balls for 191 yards.
Junior defensive end Mitchell Mason recorded his sixth sack of the season for Reynolds. Senior defensive tackle Rocco John-Daniello forced a fumble.
Safety/linebacker Quinton Earley, offensive tackle/defensive end Luke Faber, tight end/defensive end Travis Gealy, John-Daniello, halfback/safety/kicker Dreyvin Livingston, fullback/linebacker Aidan Mull, linebacker Tommy Parker, split end/cornerback Luca Tofani and Toy comprise Reynolds’ senior class.
“This is a great group of seniors. I’m really proud of them,” Josh Mull said.
“We have a lot of talent coming back,” Mull continued. “We just have to get after it and get ready for next year.”
Notes: Jeannette will play either Bishop Guilfoyle or Steelton-Highspire in the state title game … Those teams meet Saturday afternoon at Steel-High … Jeannette is 4-1 all-time against Mercer County teams … The lone loss came to Farrell 40 years ago in the District 7 Class AA playoffs … Brett Birch intercepted two passes for Jeannette … Brandon Penn returned a fumble 36 yards for a score, the 13th return touchdown for the Jayhawks this year … Reynolds finished the season plus-16 in turnover margin.
PIAA CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
JEANNETTE 7 7 27 7 48
REYNOLDS 0 6 0 6 12
J — Smith, 4 run (Binakonsky kick)
R — McCloskey, 3 run (run failed)
J — Sanders, 67 pass from Smith (Smith kick)
J — Smith, 12 run (Smith kick)
J — Canady, 5 run (Smith kick)
J — Smith, 5 run (kick failed)
J — Penn, 36 fumble return (Smith kick)
J — Wilson, 10 run (Smith kick)
R — Toy, 2 run (kick failed)
12 First downs 11
87 Rushing yards 143
277 Passing yards 23
15-6-0 Att-comp-int 7-1-2
364 Total yards 166
4-0 Fumbles-lost 4-1
5-45 Penalties-yards lost 5-47
Rushing: JEANNETTE — Callaway 1-38, Wilson 3-27, Smith 10-20, Canady 8-17, Birch 1-3, Molter 2-1, Sanders 1-0, team 3-(-21); REYNOLDS — Toy 14-82, Wagner 16-63, Livingston 7-28, McCloskey 11-(-14), team 1-(-16).
Passing: JEANNETTE — Smith 14-6-0-277, team 1-0-0-0; REYNOLDS — McCloskey 6-1-2-23, Mull 1-0-0-0.
Receiving: JEANNETTE — Sanders 3-191, Birch 3-86; REYNOLDS — Mull 1-23.