The Tigers were doomed by Matt Domonkos' 19-yard field goal in the PIAA Class AA Western final.
BY BILL ALBRIGHT
ALTOONA -- For the Bishop McCort High football team, the third time proved to be the charm Saturday at Mansion Park.
After holding leads of 3-0 and 10-7 in regulation, the Crushers scored the only points of overtime to defeat Sharon 13-10 to advance to the PIAA Class AA Western final.
"Our defense has carried us throughout the playoffs" McCort coach Ken Salem said. "We have put our defensive unit in some difficult situations, but we have been able to make the best of it in keeping people out of the end zone."
After having his second of three field-goal attempts blocked, Crusher placekicker Matt Domonkos nailed a 19-yard field goal for the winning points.
Last chance: Sharon had one last chance after the field-goal, but on second down, the ball popped loose and McCort's Anthony Rizzo pounced it to end the contest.
"There was no panic when it went to overtime," Sharon coach Jim Wildman said. "We had been behind before and have been able to come back.
"Our kids played good defense, but with that kind of kicker, they are almost assured of getting three [points] out of it.
"As for the fumble, we were setting something up and the ball came out. Who knows what happened?
"The toughest thing is that when you lose the last [game], it seems to stick with you longer than most of the other ones, especially in a game that was as evenly contested as that one was," Wildman said. "It was a fun ride while it lasted, but no ride is fun when it crashes at the end."
Crushers lead: Following a scoreless opening period, the Crushers took the lead on a Domonkos' three-point connection from 47 yards out.
The Tigers answered by marching 82 yards on nine plays. Schneider hit fullback Wade Vogan for the final dozen yards and the score.
The big play on the drive was a 61-yard connection from Schneider to wide-out Carl Wheaton.
In the third quarter, McCort regained the lead in lightning-fast fashion. On the first play following Jim Morocco's punt into the end zone, Mike Gehlman ripped off for 80 yards and a 10-7 lead.
Gehlman rushed 14 times for 135 yards.
"We ran some motion because of their size and how good their defense was," Salem said. "We started spreading them out in the second half with only one back in the backfield.
"We put Mike [Gehlman] in an off-set position to the right and we ran a quick trap up the middle. They over-adjusted to compensate for the four receivers, he made a great cut and with his great speed, he was able to go down the sideline for the score."
Tied at 10-10: Midway through the fourth quarter, Morocco kicked a 26-yard field goal to tie the game, 10-10.
Each team had one more opportunity to win the game in regulation, but Domonkos' effort in the final minutes was blocked by Vogan.
Morocco's last-ditch effort was on line, but fell well short.
McCort (11-2) advances to the PIAA Western final against WPIAL champion Washington High, which defeated Beaver Falls 24-14.
Following the game, Salem pointed out that the game marked a number of firsts in McCort grid history.
"Last week was our first district championship, today is our first-ever PIAA playoff win and we are just excited about representing our school this well," Salem said. "Our kids just want to continue to play hard and do the best they can to see how far they can take it."
Success: Wildman said, "It was a great season. We won nine football games. Maybe we beat some teams we weren't supposed to beat and maybe we lost to some teams we weren't supposed to lose to, but this group of kids never quit.
"If someone got hurt, someone else picked it up," Wildman said. "In a society that today seems to be so 'me' oriented, this football team put on a shirt in the spring where the team was 'we' and they were willing to set 'me' aside and do what was best for the football team."