Steel Valley’s WPIAL Championship game against South Side Saturday at Robert Morris should fit perfectly into your Small Business Saturday.
None of the pomp and circumstance, but the quality of the product is one of the best in town.
After dressing just 18 players during last week’s win over Freedom, the Ironmen are playing in their third consecutive WPIAL Championship and have played in four straight semifinals.
Steel Valley has been on an Aliquippa or Clairton-esque streak since 2015 with a record of 47-4, including a state championship in 2016.
All while never playing at Heinz Field for a championship.
Steel Valley’s run of excellence coincides with the WPIAL’s move to six classifications, and in 2A, the Ironmen have played the championship game at Joe Walton Stadium the past three years.
But the success hasn’t come without it’s difficulties as the Ironmen have overcome graduation and injuries the past few seasons.
Following the 2016 state championship, Steel Valley graduated five of its seven all-conference players, and their successors were lost to injury at various points through last season.
Senior receiver Trevon Adams – who had over 1,300 yards of offense last year – was lost to injury in the first quarter during last year’s 37-10 loss to Washington in the championship game.
During training camp in 2017, the Ironmen lost senior running back Najhier West to a knee injury against a scrimmage with West Mifflin.
There are no excuses, and every team deals with injuries and graduation, but it did give Steel Valley a rallying cry to get back to the top of the heap.
“It means everything. Last year, one of our star players went down in the WPIAL Championship and we lost badly,” said senior fullback Todd Hill. “We’re coming back with a revenge game. That’s why we’ve been playing hard since the jump. We’ve been waiting for this moment to come back ever since we lost. We need to do this for them and for us. We’ve been wanting this our whole life.”
Steel Valley coach Rod Steele was quick to credit Freedom’s success to reach the WPIAL Semifinals going through some adversity of their own and said he can appreciate what it means to come out the other end.
“Last year, we faced adversity right out of camp. Second play of the first scrimmage we probably lost the best player in 2A football and we were able to overcome that,” said Steele. “For this group of guys to want to keep battling and buying into what our coaching staff instills in them about hard work. Nothing is given to you. Everything in life is earned and you have to work hard for.”
Steele talked at length about his entire team, but also said Hill has been a catalyst for the team since his freshman year.
“He’s played four years of football and he’s only lost four games,” said Steele. “Two games to South Fayette, this is the fourth year for him to make it to this game. So you’re talking about a kid who’s made it to the WPIAL Finals three years. It’s impressive. This senior group, you can’t say enough about them. Since they stepped foot in high school they’ve played (in the semifinals).”
The stats may not be as impressive as in year’s past, but Steel Valley is a run first, run second and run third type offense with two players eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark (Todd Hill – 1,618 yards and Kam Williams – 1,809 yards) and play takeaway on defense.
The key to the team’s success is the line on both sides of the ball.
Against Freedom, Steel Valley forced four first-half touchdowns and returned two for touchdowns (an interception and a punt return). The Ironmen outgained Fredom 256 yards to 89, 224 of which came on the ground.
“Football hasn’t changed,” said Steele.