Upsets, big plays and dramatic comebacks were the theme of the WPIAL Quarterfinals Friday night. While all of the top-seeds do remain, a number of higher seeds and favorites were knocked off by tenacious underdogs, setting up a number of compelling semifinal showdowns.
#1 Neshannock Lancers 24 – Monessen Greyhounds 21
The legend of the 2012 Neshannock Lancers football team continues to grow. Dealt the difficult blow of being 3rd in their Conference (because of tiebreakers), the Lancers were forced to go on the road in week one, traveling over 2 hours to play the Jefferson-Morgan Rockets. The first playoff win in school history was an easy one, 42-14. But in the Quarterfinals, things were not as simple. Again traveling a LONG way from home to Chartiers-Houston, the Lancers would rally to beat the Monessen Greyhounds, 24-21. After overcoming a 14-3 deficit early, the Lancers would be faced with a 21-17 deficit late. With a 4th and 10 staring them in the face, Quarterback Ernie Burkes would find John Conglose at the one-yard line for a first down. Then, with just four seconds remaining, Burkes would run it for a touchdown, giving the Lancers the 24-21 win in dramatic fashion. Neshannock will now get an even bigger test this Friday, as they face the top-seeded Clairton Bears, who have won 58-straight games.
#2 Thomas Jefferson Jaguars 24 – Franklin Regional Panthers 21
With all the momentum having swing the way of the Franklin Regional Panthers, Thomas Jefferson needed a response. They got it. Following a Dane Brown touchdown run that cut TJ's lead to 17-14 with under 10 minutes left in the game, Joe Carroll would hit Jake Mascaro for an 85-yard touchdown pass, pushing the TJ lead to 24-14. The Jaguars' defense would do enough the rest of the way, squeaking out a 24-21 win and sending the Jaguars into the semifinals. Carroll finished with 396 yards and three touchdowns, while Mascaro pulled in nine passes for 203 yards and the decisive score. TJ will face West Allegheny Friday for the right to go to Heinz Field.
#3 North Catholic Trojans 22 – Rochester Rams 15
Not many people gave North Catholic a shot to beat a Rocheter team that was looked at as a favorite to get to Heinz Field. Not many people accounted for the Trojans' dynamic duo in their backfield. Up 22-15 late and in need of a couple game-clinching first downs, the Trojans would not turn to star Running Back PJ Fulmore, but instead Junior Fullback Jarred Fragapane, who made two 4th and 1 conversions, clinching the upset win for North Catholic, who will take on another Big 7 Conference team, the Sto-Rox Vikings, in the semifinals Friday. Fulmore finished with 103 yards and two rushing touchdowns, as well as a receiving score in the upset.