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Olivia Rodrigo and Mental Focus Helping North Allegheny’s Three Game Win Streak



If North Allegheny is serious about winning, NA head coach Art Walker will hire pop star Olivia Rodrigo to sing at every Tigers’ game the rest of this season.

OK, maybe not every game. But if it helps sophomore Khiryn Boyd play as well as he did in a 65-13 win over Hempfield Area Friday night, it’s at least worth inquiring about.

Before Friday’s playoff-clinching win at Newman Stadium, Boyd got ready to take the field in his usual way. He blasted sad songs, getting himself into ‘that mode’ in the locker room. Friday’s key song? Olivia Rodrigo’s Traitor.

On NA’s first offensive possession, Boyd took his first touch of the game to the outside, sweeping along the sideline for a short gain. It was a four-yard gain, but Boyd threw the Hempfield defender to the ground and flexed his arm — drawing raucous applause from the “White Out” student section just feet away.

Teammate Jr Burton scored a player later on a bruising run through a Hempfield defender to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead. The answering Hempfield drive, in which the Tigers were gashed through the air, leveled the score and created the air of a game in which the underdog came to shock the world. Until Boyd caught the next kickoff.

With his back foot in the end zone, Boyd fielded the kickoff on the NA one-yard line, looked up field and took off for a 99-yard touchdown through the heart of the coverage unit. But according to Boyd, it almost didn’t happen.

“Before that play happened, I didn’t know what side to be on, but I picked the right side obviously, caught the ball — the middle was wide open — and scored,” Boyd told PSN. “That gave us momentum, kept it going and we put sixty up.”

It was the first goal of the hat trick for Boyd, scoring on a 16-yard screen pass from sophomore Logan Kushner in which he showed his speed and a four-yard rush in which he fought through a defender at the goal line. “It just feels good,” Boyd said. “Great to be where we’re at right now. We just work every day for just moments like this.”

Boyd’s three touchdown performance was certainly the highlight, but a balanced offensive showing allowed the Tigers to score a season-high 65 points.

Kushner passed for two scores and ran for another, racking up just over 200 yards of offense. Senior quarterback Tanner Potts came into the second half and run for touchdowns of 22 and 38 yards in relief. Junior running back Steven Palermo added a 48-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and senior wide receiver Cole Dorn added 81 yards and a touchdown on his two catches.

With 446 yards of offense, converting all seven third down attempts and not punting once, it was a master class from the Tigers’ offense, but the defense might’ve just played a bit better.

The NA defense held Hempfield to just 206 yards of offense despite 27:32 in time of possession, forced four turnovers — an interception and three lost fumbles — and a safety to end the first half. After the opening touchdown for the Spartans, the Tigers locked in.

“I believe we got a little too lackadaisical after our first touchdown, we really hype and excited after it, but we all kind of just peeled back a little bit,” senior defensive end Jacob Porter told PSN. “We all just recognized this is Senior Night, this our last game on this field, so let’s come out with a full force and end it where it is.”

Porter was a force on the Tigers’ defense, setting the tone early. He made the first stop of the game and combined with junior teammate Tyree Alualu on a third down stop to force a Hempfield punt. A tone-setter early against the Spartans, he led by example. And as a senior now, he’s finally become the leader that he’s grown toward since his sophomore year.

“It’s just been an experience, to say the least,” Porter said. “Watching this team grow since I was a sophomore, the upperclassmen slowly leave and me realizing this is my time and it’s my job to lead the team, it’s been a really good vibe. I wouldn’t do it with anybody else.”

Like his older brother Joey Jr. before him, Porter is a leader on a team with postseason expectations. And while their roles may differ, Porter proclaiming his glory lies in getting after the quarterback like his father Joey Sr. opposed to his ball-hawking brother, both have left a legacy at North Allegheny.

“One thing we have to keep, again, is just staying together and being a team,” Porter said. “Really rallying as one and not just individuals. Realizing that we’re all Tigers and we’re all here to fight for the same thing. And that’s a win, that’s a WPIAL title.”

There have been times this season where NA has lost its mental focus, Porter said, but the physicality and teamwork have been there. So, like clamping down against Hempfield, Porter is keyed in on maintaining mental focus and playing like a team the rest of the way.

NA has clinched a playoff spot and a win over Seneca Valley next week would clinch a quarterfinals bye.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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