SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Serra Catholic won the WPIAL Class 2-A title at Heinz Field last Friday, but the Eagles couldn’t find any time to face off against the Steelers. Well, they found time Friday night and finally beat the Steelers to advance to the PIAA 2-A state championship game.
Despite another sluggish offensive performance from Serra Catholic, a stifling defensive effort and timely scores led the way for a 27-18 win over Farrell at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania Friday night.
A pick-six from Jaden Williams extended Serra Catholic’s lead to eight points in the second quarter, helped in the fourth quarter by a Jayvon Holt touchdown catch and run, and Farrell was unable to claw back into the contest despite an inspired effort from the Steelers’ Anthony Stallworth.
It was another all-around dominant effort from the Serra Catholic defense, forcing five Farrell turnovers — extending a two game takeaway total to 14.
Penalties were the name of the game in the early going — and throughout the entire contest as both teams were flagged 10 plus times — for both Farrell and Serra Catholic. A promising Farrell drive, spurred by a 23-yard rumble from Anthony Stallworth, ended with a third down Kabron Smith interception after consecutive false starts turned a 3rd-and-1 into a 3rd-and-12.
It appeared that Serra Catholic had made Farrell pay for the interception, with Max Rocco hitting Terrell Booth on a 75-yard touchdown lob down the sideline, but an offensive pass interference negated the touchdown and set the Eagles back with a 3rd-and-24 that resulted in a Rocco incompletion.
Through just 12 minutes of play, nine penalties were called. But that didn’t stop either team from converting on the ground.
Farrell leaned heavily on Stallworth on its ensuing drive, allowing him to pick up all 45 yards on a scoring drive that was capped, of course, with a short touchdown run bounced outside. A failed two point, the identical play as the touchdown, was sniffed out, and Farrell took a 6-0 lead.
It didn’t take too long for Serra Catholic, capping a two minute scoring drive with an eight-yard dive from Terrell Booth. A one-handed snag from Pharoh Fisher set SC up across midfield, and Machai Duetrieulle-Brooks rumbled 36 yards to set the Eagles up inside the 15-yard line.
With a blocked extra point attempt, the score was knotted at 6-6 toward the end of the first quarter. And that’s where Fisher made his impact felt for Serra Catholic.
After a Farrell drive stalled out inside its own territory, a 4th-and-14 forced a punt from the Steelers, but the snap bounced across the turf and Fisher streaked into the backfield and brought down Farrell’s Lamont Samuels just off the goal line for a huge loss. On Serra Catholic’s next offensive snap, Fisher took the handoff and bounced through the defense for a short go-ahead touchdown.
Farrell quickly bounced back, putting together a quick scoring drive of its own. Facing a 4th-and-4 from midfield, Farrell’s Trian Holden connected with a wide-open Samuels, who snuck completely unnoticed through the Serra Catholic secondary and walked into the end zone untouched. However, another two point conversion attempt fell incomplete, and the Steelers trailed the Eagles 13-12 early in the second quarter.
And without a hobbled Stallworth, who crossed the century mark on the drive with a couple of long runs to flip the field for Farrell, the touchdown wouldn’t have been possible.
Rocco threw an interception on the Serra Catholic on the next Eagles’ drive, picked off by Farrell’s Dwight Gregory-Allen inside Farrell territory, but the Steelers quickly gave it back. The SC defensive line burst through the Farrell offensive line, forcing an errant throw that was picked off by SC’s Jaden Williams. He returned the Eagles’ fourth defensive touchdown in two weeks 43 yards to the end zone.
With a 20-12 lead, another huge momentum swing favored Serra Catholic not long after as Farrell’s Brandon Chambers fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Booth jumped onto the loose ball to set the Eagles up just outside the red zone.
However, the Farrell defense forced a critical turnover on downs, and the Steelers had a chance to tie the game with timing slipping away at the end of the half. Farrell managed to drive the length of the field, but Serra Catholic’s Ryan Brooks’ second sack of the night stopped the drive inside the red zone with 18 seconds left in the half.
With Farrell needing a stop coming out of the halftime break, the Steelers’ defense did their job. But the Serra Catholic defense once again displayed its bend, don’t break attitude in forcing another Farrell three and out.
But another mistake from Farrell, a botched snap between the center and the quarterback set Serra Catholic up already inside Farrell territory. However, the second half defensive slugfest continued on into the fourth quarter.
And despite the defensive dominance from Serra Catholic, a 3rd-and-15 connection between Holden and Taidon Strickland — a prayer tossed up by Holden over two defenders — was converted into a 65-yard touchdown pass. Yet, a personal foul on the celebration backed Farrell up to the 18-yard line for the two point attempt, and it was no good.
With a 20-18 lead, Serra Catholic got the ball back with 8:59 left in the fourth quarter. And if the SC felt any pressure after a poor start, it didn’t show. Rocco connected with teammate Jayvon Holt, who raced 68 yards through the Farrell defense for a huge score to go ahead by two possessions.
With Farrell needing two scores, and time slipping, the Steelers managed to drive into Serra Catholic territory. With a 4th-and-6 from the SC 31-yard line, Holden just wanted to push the ball downfield, but Booth was waiting for his second interception of the night.
Farrell got the ball back late, but time ran out on the Steelers’ unbeaten season in Slippery Rock Friday night.
There’s just one game left for Serra Catholic this season, a date with Pennsylvania powerhouse Southern Columbia at Hershey Park for the PIAA Class 2-A championship next Friday.