HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: McWreath pleasant surprise for Hillers
By Doug Street, Staff writer
MONONGAHELA - Trinity coach Ed Dalton made it quite clear that the Hillers' loss to Belle Vernon three weeks ago made "a mess" of the Hillers' season, in part because Dalton was suspended for that game.
Because of that loss, the Hillers needed to win their last two games to make the playoffs.
Trinity didn't have an easy task Friday. The Hillers had to travel to Joe Montana Stadium and face a Ringgold team that had already secured a berth in the postseason. The Rams' only losses were to the two top teams in the Big Seven Conference: Thomas Jefferson and Chartiers Valley.
The Hillers still had a mess on their hands, especially as a downpour drenched the field for most of the game. Fortunately for Trinity, fullback Kyle McWreath and the offensive and defensive lines, were there to clean up the mess.
McWreath, a sophomore who came into the game with one carry for three yards this season, rushed for a game-high 93 yards and scored what turned out to be the deciding touchdown as Trinity clinched a postseason berth and third place in the conference with a 14-7 victory.
"We made that mess not beating Belle Vernon," Dalton said. "But we fixed that mess and that's a credit to the kids and the assistant coaches. They did a really good job and the kids never lost faith."
One reason for McWreath's lack of touches on offense was a separated shoulder suffered in preseason camp this year. McWreath didn't return to action until Week 5 and slowly worked his way into the lineup.
"I've been working really hard all season," McWreath said. "I've been working my butt off."
It wasn't until late in the second quarter that McWreath got the carries he's been waiting for. Trinity (3-3, 5-4) was pinned at its eight-yard line, thanks to a 63-yard punt by Ringgold's Simon Bekavac, his second long punt of the half. On second-and-nine from the nine, McWreath took a quick inside handoff, broke the initial hit and ran 31 yards to get Trinity out of trouble.
Three plays later, McWreath ran the same play with another burst through the line and got 35 more yards to the Ringgold 10.
"I try to run hard every time I get the ball," McWreath said. "Just run with my eyes up and look for gaps."
After an offsides penalty on Ringgold, Trinity's Dusty Avolio ran in from five yards out to give the Hillers a 7-0 lead late in the first half.
McWreath also got into the end zone on the Hillers' first drive of the second half, a four-yard score that capped a 13-play, 66-yard drive and gave Trinity a 14-0 lead.
Four Trinity runners combined for 201 yards against Ringgold (3-3, 6-3). Not only did the Hillers get their running game going, they consistently held the Rams to minimal gains on the ground.
"We challenged the offensive linemen and I think they did a good job coming off the ball," Dalton said. "They sustained a little better. The last couple of weeks we'd block for a count, count-and-a-half but we weren't sustaining our blocks and tonight we did that."
Bekavac, Ringgold's leading rusher, was held to 50 yards on 16 carries and the Rams finished with 49 yards on the ground. Ringgold has an effective passing attack and though the Rams passed for 111 yards, no Ringgold receiver managed a reception longer than 12 yards.
Ringgold's offense also took a major blow when senior quarterback Shane Mountain injured his knee on the Rams' first drive of the third quarter. Ringgold coach Jeff Petrucci didn't want to speculate but thinks it is unlikely Mountain will play in next week's playoff game, leaving senior backup David Bassi to run the offense.
Petrucci also knows the Rams need to play better on the line of scrimmage next week regardless of who plays quarterback.
"Defensively, we didn't tackle very well; they ran that wedge blocking," Petrucci said. "And offensively, we didn't block very well. It's as simple as that, blocking and tackling."
Though Bekavac scored late in the third quarter on a seven-yard run to cut the Rams' deficit in half, the Rams managed only 16 yards of offense on three drives in the fourth quarter including two interceptions, one by McWreath and another by Alex Frey to ice the victory and put Trinity back into the playoffs.
"We can be a threat going into the WPIAL playoffs," McWreath said. "We can be playing for the championship I think."
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