Beaver Falls Wins First State Title
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Beaver Falls Wins First State Title
by Phil Myers
Joe Namath is a very happy man today. His alma mater, the Beaver Falls Tigers, won their first PIAA state football championship in their first appearance by defeating the Middletown Blue Raiders 30-13 at Hersheypark Stadium on Saturday. Beaver Falls claimed the Class 3A title by playing outstanding, opportunistic defense, and a ball control, but explosive offense. “These guys are a coach’s dream. They don’t question, they just go and do it,” commented winning head coach Ryan Matsook.
Malik Shepherd was one of the stars of the game for the Tigers on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Shepherd rushed for 115 yards and had a 34 yard touchdown run. On the other side of the ball, he snared two of his team’s five interceptions including a 42 yard pick six that sealed the deal in the fourth quarter. “Our linemen stepped it up and enabled us to make plays,” said Shepherd.
While the Beaver Falls offense garnered only 250 yards, they did control the time of possession by a rather wide margin, 33 minutes to Middletown’s 15 minutes, thus keeping the potent Blue Raider offense off the field. When Middletown did have the pigskin, the Tiger’s defense limited them to 118 yards and caused six turnovers. Of Middletown’s 118 yards, 102 came on their two touchdowns, a 33 yard screen pass from Chase Snavely to Brady Fox and a 69 yard bomb from Snavely to Jaelen Thompson.
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“They were in only one close game all year. We just wanted to play Beaver Falls football and wear them out,” commented Matsook. “Middletown has a great football team and win or lose no team should hang their head on this stage,” he continued.
Beaver Falls drew first blood when Derrell Carter stepped in front of a Snavely pass in the first of what would be 5 interceptions. That led to a Neshaud Akins 2 yard run at the 7:01 mark of the opening quarter which gave the ‘visiting’ Tigers a 7-0 lead after Cody Long’s PAT. Middletown answered right back with the 33 yard screen pass, but the point after was no good and Beaver Falls led 7-6 with 4:45 left in the first. Middletown’s drive was aided by 35 yards in penalties to Beaver Falls.
The play went back and forth for the rest of the half with the Tigers getting the better of it, but no one scored. The orange and black had the ball in Raider territory three times before the second quarter ended, but the Middletown defense, which had not given up more than 20 points this year, came up huge stuffing the Tigers on the fourth down attempts. In fact, for the game BF was just I of 5 on fourth down conversions and 3 of 12 on third downs. Middletown, however, was worse. They converted only one time out of 11 on third and fourth down tries.
Shepherd scored on a 34 yard run up the gut at 8:59 of the third stanza to put Beaver Falls up 13-6. Later in the third Cody Long hit a field goal from 20 yards increasing the Tiger lead to 16-6. As all good teams do, Middletown dug deep and responded. On the first play after the Beaver Falls kickoff Snavely hit the streaking Thompson down the sideline and suddenly it was 16-13 after Donovan Brady’s extra point with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Beaver Falls replied two and a half minutes into the final quarter when Derrell Carter took off on a 53 yard TD jaunt to put his team back up by ten points at 23-13. From that point on the Tigers’ defense overwhelmed the Blue Raider offense with pressure that resulted in sacks and three more interceptions, one of which was Shepherd’s 42 yard INT return for a TD at the 4:50 mark of the 4th quarter.
Game Notes and Quotes: Middletown was held to -13 yards rushing on 17 carries. It all starts up front when with a team that plays the 3-4 defense like Beaver Falls. Michigan recruit Donovan Jeter, Matt Gandy, and Raquan Crowder averages 6’5” and 295 lbs. That’s a load for any offense to handle. Add to that the speed and aggressiveness of the Tiger LBs and DBs and one has a recipe for a tough defense. Shepherd on how he and his mates intercepted 5 passes, “We worked on pass coverage all week and just listen to our coaches.” Matsook said, “Malik is a special player plus our line getting after the quarterback is why we got 5 interceptions.” The yellow and blue of Middletown ends the season with a 14-1 record. This was the Blue Raiders’ first championship appearance also. Beaver Falls wound up 13-1, being victorious in 13 straight after opening with a loss to Aliquippa.
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