For all intents and purposes Friday night was a playoff game for both Mt. Lebanon and Norwin.
The Blue Devils could clinch a playoff spot with a win, and the Knights needed a win to keep their somewhat slim chances alive.
Mt. Lebanon played the entire game like a playoff game, while Norwin played one half of good football.
The Knights punted on four of their first six possessions while the other two were failed fourth-down attempts.
Mt. Lebanon, however, found a groove early offensively and rode a well-balanced attack to overwhelm Norwin.
The Blue Devils rushed for 229 yards and quarterback Seth Morgan threw for 189 yards.
Norwin has had trouble stopping the run all season and Mt. Lebanon wanted to be able to run the ball effectively in a crucial game.
“We saw other teams had success against them, and we wanted to show we’re not just a passing team, that we’re able to run the ball too,” said Morgan.
“Cannon-Mac last week (against Norwin) was able to control the ball on the ground, but we still wanted to be balanced,” said coach Mike Melnyk. “When they loaded the box we still felt comfortable with our passing game, and Seth threw a couple good balls that turned into big plays.”
Morgan finished the night 12-18 for 189 yards and a touchdown to go along with 45 rushing yards and a score.
Five different running backs and Morgan all finished with at least one rushing attempt and 10 different players recorded a rushing attempt in the win.
The Blue Devils used a combination of sweeps, options, reverses, option pitches and even an actual traditional handoff in an effort to get as many people touches as possible.
“I can’t even count how many players I feel comfortable handing the ball off to on a Friday night,” said Morgan. “We have so many weapons, and we’re very lucky for that.”
·Jack Salopek was as advertised Friday for Norwin.
The junior quarterback – who has an offer from Pitt – got off to a relatively slow start but caught fire in the second half finishing 20-37 for 333 yards and four touchdowns.
What’s more impressive is that Salopek has all the throws in his arsenal. He showed touch over the middle to his tight end as he fit the ball perfectly behind the linebackers, his timing was perfect on two back-shoulder throws in the end zone and he uncorked a deep ball 50 yards in the air late in the fourth quarter.
“That kind of player, you’re just hoping to contain him. Especially with the score the way it was we were playing a little bit softer and not trying to give up the big play and work the clock so he had a little bit more room, but he’s a good quarterback,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Melnyk.
Unfortunately, Salopek’s offensive line didn’t play great and Mt. Lebanon had a lot to do with that – but he was forced to play Houdini a lot from the pocket and I think the statistician had five dropped passes by Norwin receivers.
Vs Mt. Lebanon 333 yards 4 Td’s https://t.co/u26ZooK6Mq
— Jack Salopek (@JackSalopek) October 20, 2018
·Gianni Rizzo is an old-school football player.
The Youngstown State commit made his presence felt on defense immediately when he leveled a Mt. Lebanon player on the sideline and put him in concussion protocol. The hit was high and probably should have been flagged, but his closing speed and ability to just lower his shoulder was impressive.
He even carried the team offensively as Norwin’s comeback attempt fell six points short.
Rizzo finished the night with 163 receiving yards on nine receptions and a touchdown and even spent three plays as the wild cat quarterback when Norwin was struggling to find something that worked on offense.
Rizzo recorded five tackles on defense.