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WPIAL

Rodney Gallagher Continues to “Check Boxes” at Laurel Highlands

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UNIONTOWN, Pa. — Laurel Highlands dominated West Allegheny 44-15 in the opening round of the Class-4A WPIAL Playoffs on Friday night. This victory has increased meaning for Laurel Highlands. This is the Mustang’s first home playoff victory in school history. It is the school’s second overall playoff victory after defeating Beaver in the opening round a year ago. In many ways, this victory “checks another box.”

The Mustangs have an experienced group of playmakers that can make impact plays on both sides of the ball. Senior Keondre DeShields provided a huge moment on Friday as he broke a Mustang Field record with a 102-yard pick-six. Sophomore Antwan Black Jr. was another game-changer as he recorded a receiving touchdown and a huge forced fumble in the victory.

But arguably the best player in the WPIAL, West Virginia commit Rodney Gallagher leads the Mustangs. Gallagher makes an impact on all three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams. This was displayed in the Mustang’s playoff victory on Friday night.

Gallagher plays quarterback and the offense runs entirely through him. He threw a dot on an 8-yard touchdown pass and added two more rushing touchdowns in the victory. Gallagher put on a show with his elite speed as he outran the entire defense on both of his rushing scores.

On defense, Gallagher plays on an “island” and was targeted very sparingly which disrupted West Allegheny’s offensive gameplan. While being a shutdown corner, he also demonstrated a vocal leadership role on the defense as he repeatedly made callouts to his teammates all night long. This led the defense to multiple interceptions, two pick-sixes, and a fumble.

Additionally, Gallagher returns the kicks for the Mustangs and teams have to gameplan around his playmaking ability. This was evident as West Allegheny routinely punted away from him. This even resulted in a shanked punt that set up the Mustang’s second score of the game.

“We knew we had to defend our house, and we knew it was not going to be easy,” Gallagher said to Pittsburgh Sports Now after the victory.

The Mustangs made it seem “easy” in their crushing of West Allegheny.

Gallagher told PSN that being a part of the group that won the school’s first-ever home playoff game, “It’s great. It is just more history and another box checked.” Gallagher has now led the Mustangs to their first two playoff victories in school history and now looks to keep “checking boxes.”

The Mustangs will travel to Central Valley to battle the defending state champions in hopes of continuing their playoff run next week. Gallagher said that “it is going to be tough but we just got to do what we do best.” 

Gallagher was able to win his final game at home as a Mustang and now looks ahead to the future of the playoffs and beyond. At this time next year Rodney Gallagher will be a Division 1 athlete at West Virginia University, but as of Friday night, he is enjoying a playoff victory with his Mustang teammates.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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