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CHIPPEWA TWP., Pa. — Blackhawk’s offensive line and running back depth helped give senior Marques Watson-Trent an 18th birthday to remember.
The talented running back rushed for 159 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns in the first half to help lead the Cougars to a 36-7 win Friday night over Greensburg Salem in the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals.
A high ankle sprain has been nagging Watson-Trent for a few weeks, and was used sparingly in the win on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
He did however manage to the ball 14 times and record a handful of big tackles against Greensburg Salem’s run-heavy option offense.
Watson-Trent scored on runs of 58 and 41 yards.
“It was some great blocking,” said Watson-Trent. “We practiced those plays all week, so we knew what was going to happen, we studied film, all that. Once I saw the hole, I just went.”
Watson-Trent said it was the coaches who kept him out for stretches of the game, and said he will continue to push through the pain.
At halftime, the Golden Lions, unsurprisingly, held a 16:24 to 7:36 time of possession advantage, but the script was flipped in the second half.
A trio of running backs including Josh Butcher, Vince Gratteri and Josh Hathaway led the Cougars to 23 points and 15 minutes of possession time. The time of possession was reversed in the second half, with the Cougars holding the 2;1 advantage.
“He (Marques) doesn’t get all the reps in practice, (Butcher, Gratteri and Hathaway) all get reps in practice, we try to run as many plays and situations as possible.
“They’re very selfless. When Butcher, Marques is the first one to greet him, when Vinny scores, everyone jumps up. There’s no ill-will between any of our running backs. They’re a close-knit group. When one scores, they all score.”
The Cougars outgained the Golden Lions 382-151 and outrushed their opponent 297-99.
The lead gave Gratteri, normally the team’s fullback and lead blocker, a chance to get some time in the spotlight, but he prefers his other role.
“Lead blocking and seeing (Marques) go to the house is always better,” said Gratteri.
2008 Y CROSS
Blackhawk coach Zack Hayward dusted off the old playbook for a key pass against Greensburg Salem in the third quarter.
Hayward, who played quarterback for the Cougars and led the team to a WPIAL Championship game in 2008, out of a timeout called a play-action pass to tight-end Ryan Heckathorn for a 25-yard touchdown, and more importantly a 21-7 lead.
“That’s a play we ran in 2008 in the first round of the playoffs against Ringgold,” said Hayward.
“We have all those games on Hudl, and I was just reminiscing senior year, I saw that play, and we had Marques in the backfield, I thought maybe teams would key on him and we could sneak behind those linebackers, and sure enough he ran the perfect route and (quarterback Carson Davidson) made the perfect read.”
Hayward said the most impressive part of the play was the blocking 30 yards downfield by senior James Darno that helped get Heckathorn into the end zone.
Without hesitation, Hayward remembered it was Mike Pearson who caught the pass in 2008, and said he’s asked about it every time the two see each other.
“He’s a good buddy of mine, every time I see him he says ‘hey, remember that Y cross’.”
CRASH COURSE GAME PLAN
A team like Greensburg Salem can present a lot of problems in the playoffs.
An option-style running attack against a team that normally doesn’t see it is susceptible to the ball fakes and misdirection that can lead to a lot of big plays.
Couple that with less than five days of preparation, it makes Blackhawk’s defensive performance all the more impressive.
With the brackets announced earlier in the week, the Cougars had only a few days to prepare for a unique offense in the first round.
“It was a mess,” said Hayward with a smile. “Because you don’t get any film until Tuesday. So, you game plan in the morning, practice in the afternoon. You do the same thing Wednesday, and everything is clustered into two days.”
Greensburg had four options in the backfield including quarterback Trent Patrick, and all four got their share of carries in the first half. But fumbles and costly penalties put the Golden Lions behind the sticks on second and third down, and they were forced more into a passing offense.
Patrick had plenty of arm throughout the night, but accuracy plagued the senior, and he completed only 8-20 passes for 52 yards.
“It was tough, we came in at halftime and had to switch a few things up, make sure we were able to fight across our blocks, we started doing that more in the second half,” said junior Vince Gratteri.
The game was tied 7-7 in the second quarter and the Cougars held a 13-7 lead at the half before scoring the games final 23 points.
NO 700 CLUB
Greensburg Salem entered Friday nights game with 699 program victories, looking to become just the fifth team to reach the 700-win plateau.
The other four teams are Jeannette (756), New Castle (745), Aliquippa (732) and Washington (703).
The Golden Lions have not won a playoff game since 2000.