VIDEO: Penn Hills Edges Baldwin, 10-8, in TV Thriller
Last-minute field goal trumps Highlanders' dramatic comeback.
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But in the end, it didn't matter, as a 28-yard field goal by Penn Hills' senior placekicker Peter Gula with 32 seconds left trumped a dramatic Highlanders comeback.
As it is, Penn Hills (2-1, 2-1) gets a leg up over the Highlanders (1-2, 1-2) in the highly competitive WPIAL AAAA Southeastern Conference by way of a 10-8 victory, televised regionally by ROOT SPORTS as its McDonald's Game of the Week.
With about five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game and Baldwin down, 7-0, Smorey broke through the Penn Hills line to block a 25-yard Gula field goal try and give the Highlanders the ball back trailing by just one score.
Three plays later, facing fourth-and-6 at the Baldwin 16-yard line, Smorey—a punter, holder, defensive back and occasional quarterback—called his own number and changed a fake-punt pass play at the line of scrimmage to a 42-yard run that eventually led to the Highlanders' go-ahead score.
"I just saw the whole defense turn their back (on the fake punt)," Smorey said, "so I just took off running. I knew we needed that first down, so I made it happen.
Asked about the blocked field goal, Smorey said, simply, "I did what I could do to help out the team. One-eleventh. I did my one-eleventh (one of 11 Baldwin players on the field)."
After Smorey's run on the fake punt, in which he deked out a defender just in front of the first-down marker to keep Baldwin's chances alive, teammate and senior running back Dorian Brown exploded for runs of 18 and 23 yards to set up his own 1-yard touchdown rush that spelled a 7-6 score with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left.
Baldwin then called a timeout to consider whether it should try for a game-tying extra point or a go-ahead two-point conversion.
Riding the hot hand of Brown, who finished with 174 yards on 19 carries, the Highlanders went for the win, and Brown barged his way into the end zone behind a push from his offensive line.
"I figured, with the way our defense was playing, I would just go for two," Baldwin's Head Coach Jim Wehner said. "If we didn't get it, we stop them and get the ball back."
But that Highlanders' defense, which had been excellent by allowing just 79 second-half yards up to that point, couldn't stop senior quarterback Darius Holloway from leading the Indians down the field on an 11-play, 65-yard winning drive.
Holloway ran for gains of 21 and eight yards on that drive, often scrambling away from would-be Baldwin tacklers while earning first downs.
Holloway finished the game with 78 yards on 12 carries.
Classmate and running back Aaron Bailey led Penn Hills with 108 yards on 20 rushes, including a three-yard TD run with 8:46 left in the second quarter for the game's first points.
Bailey's TD capped off a nine-play, 86-yard drive and was typical of a solid first half for the Indians, which outgained the Highlanders, 215-99, in the first two quarters.
But Baldwin turned things around in the second half, eventually narrowing Penn Hills' advantage in total yards to 352-299.
Baldwin had one more chance to come back after Penn Hills' late field goal, but sophomore quarterback Doug Altavilla's pass intended for junior wide receiver Gary Jackson ended up in the hands of senior defensive back Demond Reed at the Baldwin 34 with about 21 seconds left.
Reed was a thorn in Altavilla's side all game long. The young quarterback's fourth-quarter interception toss was actually his second of the game, as Reed picked him off at the Penn Hills goal line late in the third quarter, as well, to end a promising Baldwin drive.
Reed also broke up two other throws, and Altavilla finished just 4-for-15 passing for 70 yards.
Senior defensive back/wide receiver D'Andre Andrews and junior running back Stephon Harris split Altavilla's four completions evenly. Andrews gained a game-high 53 yards off of them, while Harris gained 17.
Holloway went 8-for-13 passing for 99 yards and no picks. His favorite target was junior wide receiver Michael Anthony, who made two catches for 16 yards. Senior wide receiver Robin Hall added a 33-yard catch.
To the trained eye and to the stat rat, junior defensive back Jay Morrison was the game's best defensive player. Morrison's 16 tackles (12 solo) were double that of the game's next-highest tackler, and Morrison's heavy forced fumble on third-and-goal late in the first half snuffed out a Penn Hills scoring threat and shook up senior Indians wide receiver Jordan Davenport.
"I think the hit by Jay Morrison right before the half sort of riled us up a little bit," Wehner said. "That was a big play right before the half. Not that you want to see a kid get hurt, but Jay put a nice hit on the kid. And we had momentum coming out of the half."
Smorey made eight tackles (seven solo), including two for losses totaling 11 yards.
Penn Hills' senior fullback/linebacker Tyler Whindleton led all players with three tackles for a loss (totaling nine yards), including a five-yard sack of Altavilla. Whindleton finished with a team-high seven tackles (six solo), tied with senior defensive back Torreek Hester (four solo).
And Sage Hicks, another senior defensive back, broke up two more Altavilla passes.
The 2012 schedule doesn't get any easier for Baldwin. The Highlanders will host perennial power Mt. Lebanon High School (1-1, 1-0) for another Southeastern Conference game on Friday, Sept. 21, at 7:30 p.m.
Penn Hills travels to Upper St. Clair High School (2-0, 2-0) for a Southeastern showdown at the same time.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Wehner said of his squad. "That was a hard-fought game. That was probably the best high school game I've been involved in as a head coach.
"We're gonna keep hunting. We got a bunch of fighters in that (locker) room, and these kids won't quit. We're not gonna quit as coaches. We're gonna come out, we're gonna prepare for Mt. Lebanon, and we're gonna take it one game at a time.
"We're not gonna quit. At least they know, when they play Baldwin, they're gonna be in for a fight."
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