By Corey J. Corbin
Allied News Sports Editor
SLIPPERY ROCK — They say statistics never lie.
But, they certainly can be misleading.
Despite being outgained 177-54 in the first half and 277-189 for the game, Region 3 and District 10 champion Wilmington won its first state playoff game in almost a decade with a 13-6 win over District 6 champion Bishop McCort (11-2) Friday evening at Slippery Rock University’s N. Kerr Thompson Stadium.
With the win, the Greyhounds (14-0) will face Jeannette (13-1), a 32-7 winner over Brookville, at a site and time to be determined in the PIAA Class AA Western Region Finals.
“(Playing in the Western Finals) is obviously a great opportunity for us,” said veteran Wilmington mentor Terry Verrelli. “We’re elated to win the football game and move on. It was a great effort on both sides of the ball. (Bishop McCort) is a great football team, but so are we.
“Yards and stats mean nothing, only that score does.”
After a five-play Wilmington drive to open the game, the Crimson Crushers promptly chewed up game clock and real estate with a 13-play, 59-yard drive that consumed 6:54 before Scott Lewis scored from 1-yard out with 3:18 remaining in the first quarter. After a high snap, the ensuing pass on the two point conversion failed.
Lewis finished with 162 yards on 32 totes.
Wilmington’s ensuing drive was halted by a fumble at midfield. Bishop McCort took possession and continued to drive on the ’Hounds Hammer.
The Crimson Crushers appeared to score on a 17-yard run around the left side of the line on a third-and-one play, but a holding penalty negated the run. The Hounds stuffed McCort on third and fourth downs to take over on downs.
“Look at the size of them, I was concerned if we were going to be able to move the football against these big guys and are we going to be able to stop that power game,” Verrelli said. “We did just enough to win the game. (Penalties are) part of the game. When you’re holding, you’re holding.”
The ensuing drive yielded another punt, but the Wilmington defense stiffened, forcing McCort to punt from it’s own 24.
Forrest Minteer got a paw on Ben Pastorek’s punt with Brandon Palladino returning the ball 17 yards to the Crimson Crusher 3, but the Hounds fumbled on first down, handing the ball back to Bishop McCort.
“There were a lot of times where they go some breaks,” Verrelli said. “(The fumble) was a disappointing part, but if you hang in there, good things will happen to you.”
After picking up just seven yards on its possession, McCort coach Ken Salem decided to run a fake punt on fourth-and-9 from the 10, but Brad Barbin was stopped for a 5-yard gain.
Four plays later, Wilmington QB Jake Reiber snuck into the endzone under the blocking of his offensive line from 1-yard out. Nick Riggall tacked on the extra point for a 7-6 edge with 1:43 left in the half.
“All you do is play, hope you can move the football and hopefully, you break one,” Verrelli said. “Really that was what kind of game this was.”
The Hounds eventually did break one a little over 12 minutes later on a 63-yard score from Chris Burns to extend the lead to 13-6 after the PAT was blocked. The run more than doubled Wilmington’s offensive output to that point (55 yards of offense).
“I had to get up in the hole, read my blocks and turn on the jets,” Burns said. “I know I’m not going to break every run. I have to trust God, because he’s going to let me get what I can get.”
After allowing 177 yards in the first half, Wilmington’s defense stiffened in the second half, allowing just 100 yards, and harassing standout quarterback Jordan Defrances into a 3-of-17, 59-yard effort through the air. Junior defensive end Brandon Palladino was all over the field defensively and was credited with a sack.
“We played great defense,” Verrelli said. “As the game goes on, I think you get more familiar with what the other team does offensively,” “You’re little better prepared as they continue to run those plays. We really didn’t change anything.
“Palladino had a great game defensively. He’s a tough kid. He’s small, but he’s quick. We needed to get some pressure on the quarterback, because he can throw there’s no question about that.”
Burns became the first running back to crack the century mark against a Bishop McCort defense through 12 games with 115 yards on 16 carries.
“I thought they got tired,” Burns said. “The line did a great job. We know we have to keep running hard and it’ll come. Big runs will come if you keep running the football and stay patient.
“We’ve got a lot of heart. They’re a big team, but we know every game is four quarters.”
On facing WPIAL champion Jeannette in the Western Finals, Burns said, “As a junior, I’ve never been there before, so I’m excited. I don’t know what to expect, but it’s going to be crazy. I’m going to go out there have some fun and keep playing. We have keep our focus and keep our heads level. We have to watch some film, probably (today), and see what they got. Fix some of our mistakes.
“Our defense has to stay strong. If you can’t score, you can’t win. We have to keep them off the boards.”
Notes: Forrest Minteer and David Bruno tacked on 46 and 28 yards, respectively, for Wilmington. ... The Greyhounds only attempted one pass. ... The Crimson Crushers had 16 first downs to Wilmington’s 6. ... McCort was penalized 9 times for 65 yards, while the Hounds were whistled once for 15 yards. ... Sophomore defensive tackle Clint DeRosa was also credited with a sack. ... Michael Cruz and Wayne Jones recovered fumbles for McCort.
PIAA CLASS AA PLAYOFFS
B. MCCORT 6 0 0 0 6
WILMINGTON 0 7 6 0 13
BM — Lewis, 2-yard run (pass failed)
W — Reiber, 1-yard run (Riggall kick)
W — C. Burns, 63-yard run (kick blocked)
B. MCORT WILMINGTON
16 First downs 6
218 Rushing yards 189
59 Passing yards 0
17-3-0 Att-comp-int 1-0-0
277 Total yards 189
0-0 Fumbles-lost 2-2
9-65 Penalties-yards lost 1-15
Rushing: BISHOP MCCORT — Lewis 32-162, Barbin 18-69, Varga 1-2, Defrances 2-(-15); WILMINGTON — Burns 16-115, Minteer 8-46, Bruno 4-28, Reiber 5-0.
Passing: BISHOP MCCORT — Defrances 16-3-0 59, Cruz 1-0-0 0; WILMINGTON — Reiber 1-0-0 0.
Receiving: BISHOP MCCORT — Barbin 2-48, Seidel 1-53, Cruz 1-0.
By Corey J. Corbin