The Steelers couldn't convert a third-period opportunity and Rochester took advantage.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
WEXFORD, Pa. -- Outnumbered and outplayed in every statistical category except the one that matters most, the Farrell High football team was poised to drive a stake into the heart of the defending Pennsylvania Class A champions.
Nursing an 8-6 third quarter lead despite being held to 37 total yards of offense in the first half, coach Lou Falconi's Steelers faced a third-and-2 from the Rochester 8 Saturday at North Allegheny High School.
Knowing the Rams were expecting a run, Falconi tried to catch the Rams napping by having sophomore quarterback Brian Dungee pass. The plan backfired when Rams defender Nate Waldron sacked Dungee for an 8-yard loss.
After Farrell was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, Dungee threw another incompletion.
Given new life, the Rams responded with two lengthy touchdown drives for a 19-8 victory in the WPIAL semifinal game.
"Never count out the heart of a champion," Rochester coach Gene Matsook said after the Rams avenged a 12-9 loss to Farrell in Week 3.
Matsook said Waldron's sacks were the turning point because the Steelers "had momentum after intercepting the ball, but our defense rose to the occasion. That was a big play."
Falconi, who guided Farrell to state championships in 1995 and 1996, agreed.
"Third-and-2, we should have scored," Falconi said. "We had two downs and I thought we might catch them [napping] with the pass play."
Rams make move: Instead, the Rams marched 69 yards on eight plays, capping the drive with senior running back Jermaine Moye's 27-yard touchdown with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter that put Rochester ahead for keeps.
With a 12-9 lead, the Rams defenders took over, limiting the Farrell offense to just four pass plays in the fourth quarter. Two fell incomplete, while the others were picked off.
The Rams gobbled most of the fourth-quarter clock with a 14-play, 55-yard drive that ended with quarterback Adam Moore scoring from the 2.
"They were hanging their tongues -- it was just too much," said Falconi of his defenders, who were on the field for 61 rushing plays and five passes.
"We just were not in synch today," Falconi said. "They played much better. We didn't do anything offensively. It's a shame because in the last seven games, we had an offense that was clicking.
"I don't know if it was the coaches' fault or the players' fault or if we should just give credit to Rochester," Falconi said.
Matsook said his team remained calm after Farrell scored its only touchdown on a blocked field-goal attempt in the first quarter.
After Rochester took the opening kickoff deep into Farrell territory, the Steelers' Allan Claiborne blocked Javonn Bradley's 27-yard field goal attempt. Farrell lineman Sean Kearney tipped the deflected ball to Dustin Pinkins, who returned it 93 yards for a 6-0 lead.
Claiborne scored the conversion points.
"They didn't panic after the field-goal block -- it was a fluke play," Matsook said. "We faced some adversity early in the season and everybody forgot about us. But here we are back in the WPIAL championship game."
Saturday, Rochester will play Fort Cherry at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The winner will play the winner of the Sharpsville-Bishop Carroll game for the Western Pennsylvania championship.
Bradley scored a 1-yard touchdown just before halftime.
The Rams limited the Steelers to 42 yards rushing on 15 carries. Dungee completed two-of-nine passes for 19 yards.
"It's too bad," Falconi said. "When you get this far and you have an opportunity like this, you can't let it slip. We let it slip out of our hands."