Steel-High Rolls to Semis with Late Score
Just when his team needed him the most, Steel-High junior quarterback Malachi Young came through in the clutch. After missing the majority of his team’s games earlier this fall, Young has returned just in the nick of time to lead the Rollers pursuit of a state title. Young hit junior classmate Lathaniel Spencer with a 50 yard scoring strike with only 1:22 remaining in regulation to lead the Rollers to a 24-20 come from behind win over Williams Valley (12-2) in the second round of PIAA Class A state playoffs.
Although the 17-14 advantage Steel-High held at the half may not indicate so, the Rollers arguably dominated the first half of play. Much to their dismay, the Rollers held themselves back from opening up a larger margin by amassing over 60 yards of penalties, including 30 yards worth on back to back plays of a Williams Valley scoring drive, and, also, turned the ball over once in their own territory. Fortunately for the Rollers, no major damage was done. They were also able to keep Viking’s star running back Dylan Rabuck under control, limiting him to less than 40 yards on the ground before the half. Rabuck had rushed for over 2,000 yards in his team’s previous 13 games.
“I thought that throughout our year in our division we played some pretty good backs. We played some great running backs, and he’s a great running back, so we had preparation going into it. He’s a great hard-nosed, physical running back and I think he compares with those guys down in the Mid-Penn also,” said Rollers head coach Andrew Erby.
After two unsuccessful possessions to open the second half, Williams Valley needed a spark to get their offense going, and, with 2:20 left in the third quarter they found just that. Devon Rabuck, whose nonstop motor has powered the Viking’s defense all season, picked off Young’s short throw near the line of scrimmage. The Rollers brought Rabuck down at their own 19 yard line. The Vikings were in prime position to take the lead…
On first down Williams Valley quarterback Levi Engle took the snap and ran 10 yards around the right side to set his team up with first and goal. Dylan Rabuck found pay dirt the very next play, rumbling into the end zone from nine yards out to give the Vikings a 20-17 lead after the conversion failed.
After both sides traded punts for a few possessions, the Vikings had an opportunity to ice the game mid-way through the fourth quarter. Beginning the drive at its own 32 yard line, Williams Valley embarked on a 10 play sequence that would eat four and a half minutes off the clock. . The Vikings drive steadily pounded its way up the field led by Dylan Rabuck, who had come to life in the second half.
Rabuck would finish with 133 yards rushing on the evening.
However, the promising series began to falter after three quick penalties were assessed to the Vikings, including two on back to back plays. Williams Valley, faced with a fourth and five beyond field goal range, elected to punt. Jake Wolfgang’s high soaring punt landed out of bound giving Steel-High possession on its own 23 and breathing life back into its state title hopes
Three plays and just 22 seconds was all Steel-High needed. All three plays of the 77 yard drive went from Young to Spencer and the Rollers were back on top again. This time it was for good.
“We knew we could take what they were giving us and try to get the ball out of bounds. We wanted to isolate one of our better receivers and isolate him on that side to try to move it down. He turned a five yard hitch into a big play and actually a huge play,” said Rollers head coach Andrew Erby of his team’s game winning drive.
Williams Valley did have quite an exciting last effort though. Allen Hand took the ensuing kickoff from his own two yard line all the way across the mid-field stripe, two yards into Roller’s territory for a fifty yard return. After a short run and an incomplete pass, Engle completed a twelve yard pass to get his Vikings down to the 32 yard line of Steel-High. Two plays later the Vikings were flagged for a hold well behind the line of scrimmage, pushing them back to mid-field and effectively ending any realistic chances they had to reach the end zone.
Rollers quarterback Malachi Young was 15 of 23 passing for nearly 200 yards in the win. He also contributed the aforementioned go-ahead touchdown pass and threw a third quarter interception. Erby praised the play of his signal caller who is still rounding into form after missing most of the regular season.
“He played four, four and a half games this year. He gives us so much confidence. He’s just a competitor where when he’s in the game he’s always going to think he’s going to win the game. That’s just the type of kid he is,” Erby said. “He’s a hard-nosed kid.”
Tim Savage and Williams Valley conclude its season at 12-2. Steelton-Highspire will match-up Bishop Guilfoyle, 52-6 winners over Homer-Center, next weekend.
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