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WPIAL

Remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole Make for Rain-Soaked Friday Night of WPIAL Playoffs

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One thing that comes to mind when playoff football is discussed is the weather. Teams truly get tested when the weather gets colder, and the elements play a factor. While the WPIAL playoffs are not quite the dead of winter like the NFL, the playoffs did get a taste of the conditions with a downpour of rain that started well before kick-off and went well after the games went final.

“When I first came out, you could tell that everyone was hyped with the rain,” said Central Valley running back Bret FitzSimmons. “You just had to accept the fact that it was pouring down rain.”

The weather can cause some teams to play left-handed, but for others, it can be an advantage. Central Valley embraced the weather, as did Steel Valley star quarterback Cruce Brookins. He knew that the rain was going to put the game on his legs, and that is where he feels most comfortable.

“I looked at the forecast, and I knew we were going to be running,” said Brookins, with a smile after the game.

Brookins wound up going for 333 yards on the ground in a win over McGuffey.

“I have been working on my balance, lifting more in my legs, it made it easier,” said Brookins on his ability to rely on his legs in the slippery conditions.

Upper St. Clair found a way to create through the air, though. Ethan Hellman hit Cody Marn for a 67-yard touchdown pass that ended up being the go-ahead score in their upset win over Bethel Park.

“We practiced all week to prepare for this,” said Upper St. Clair running back Jamaal Brown about being able to pass in the rain. (Hellman) came out in the rain and made a nice throw and helped open the game up for me.”

Still, even while these teams embraced the conditions on their way to winning, they also had their struggles. Steel Valley tried to throw the football but realized quickly the needed to abandon that plan.

“It was hard to throw the ball in the rain,” admitted Brookins. “It kept slipping out of my hand, so we just had to keep running it.”

For Central Valley, the rain led to them starting three drives inside their opponent’s 30-yard line, but they turned it over twice off those great starts.

“Obviously this weather played havoc with the early part of the game,” said Central Valley head coach Mark Lyons. “We had great field position but did not take advantage early on.”

McKeesport won despite 12 fumbles in the first half. They fumbled seven times in a row at one point, but only lost three.

“I love playing in the rain, I just hate the fact that the ball gets slippery so we just control what we can control,” noted McKeesport quarterback Jahmil Perryman.

Lyons prepared his team the best that he could, but even his players admitted that while they anticipated rain, they could not have projected a downfall like that.

“We weren’t expecting this much rain, but we were wetting balls, trying to get a feel for it,” said Fitzsimmons.

“There is no way to prepare for that much rain,” added Central Valley safety Jayvin Thompson.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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