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Steelton-Highspire’s passing king Alex Erby leaves as three-time state champ in a 42-8 win over Fort Cherry in Class 1A championship

Written by: on Thursday, December 7th, 2023. Follow Joseph Santoliquito on Twitter.


Photos by Matt Topper

MECHANICSBURG, PA — The game was a formality. It was more of a farewell coronation of a passing king. Steelton-Highspire coach Andrew Erby knew this day would come and he had mixed feelings.

Part of him was downright ecstatic over his son, Alex, the lefty Navy commit, winning his third PIAA Class 1A state championship in four years. The other part dreaded the coming day when he would no longer be coaching his son.

Alex did what he was supposed to do against District 7 champion Fort Cherry on Thursday at Chapman Field at Cumberland Valley High School, throwing for five touchdowns and 340 yards in a 42-8 Steamrollers’ victory.

Steelton-Highspire won its third PIAA 1A state championship in the last four years and fifth overall (2007, 2008, 2020, 2022 and 2023). The Steamrollers won their 28th-straight game, and they will enter next season with the state’s longest winning streak.

Alex entered the game as Pennsylvania’s all-time leading passing leader with 13,227 yards passing and 170 touchdown passes. He leaves throwing for a career state-record 13,567 yards and 175 touchdowns. This season, he ended an amazing senior year in which he threw for 4,424 yards and 61 touchdown passes against four interceptions. Over his career, he completed 773 of 1,034 passes and this season completed 257 of 336.

“I was looking around, that last 30 seconds was hard,” Andrew Erby said. “This was not easy. We put so much into it. I remember these guys (twin sons Alex and Andrew Erby Jr.) when they were six, seven years old just running hills and trying to be great, working hard and getting up on their own and doing it. For them to finish it off here, it was a blessing and a special moment. I saw the commitment behind the scenes to get to this point.

“It was hard to hold tears back. If it was going to end, I wanted it to end this way.”

The game was over by halftime. The Steamrollers had piled up a 34-0 lead, scoring on five of their first six possessions. Fort Cherry, appearing in its first state championship, was completely overwhelmed. Steelton-Highspire pounded the Rangers for 390 yards of total offense to just 85 for Fort Cherry—in the first half.

The Steamrollers averaged 10.26 a play while stopping Fort Cherry on a goal-line stand near the end of the half. The Rangers were stymied, averaging 3.04 yards per play, and were 0 for 6 on third-down conversions and 0-7 combined for third and fourth-down conversions.

Erby had an unbelievable passer rating of 246.8, completing 18 of 22 (which included two drops, one for a sure TD) for 275 yards and four touchdown passes, with one rushing.

The Steamrollers created the tone early, taking the opening kickoff 59 yards, using eight plays to take a quick 7-0 lead on Erby’s five-yard TD pass to Jaeion Perry. Steelton-Highspire took its second possession 75 yards over six plays, ending on Erby’s second TD pass, a 17-yard toss to Nazier Fuller. After being stopped on downs their third series, the Steamrollers went up 21-0 on an Erby 37-yard run, followed by Erby TD throws of 77 yards to Fuller and 32 yards to Durrell Ceasar Jr.

“That goes to preparation,” Alex said. “We spread the ball out and that’s pretty hard to stop. They were giving up only 12 points a game. We knew we had our hands full. This is not easy. This goes back to all the years and all the times my dad coached me. It’s sinking in a little bit that this was the last game with my dad, and it will sink in more when I get home and there will be tears. This is everything my dad has done for me, the preparation, watching film with him, it all comes to an end.

“We’ll never have that connection with him again, the two of us on the sideline together.”

With 6:44 left in the third quarter, the mercy rule came into play when Steelton-Highspire scored on the first drive of the second half, capped by Erby’s fifth touchdown pass, a three-yard toss to Taevon Legrande. It was the sixth time the Steamrollers scored on their first eight drives.

It did not help that Fort Cherry turned the ball over four times—on two lost fumbles and two interceptions.

“Whenever you make mistakes like that against a team like that, they’re going to get on those fumbles and take advantage,” Fort Cherry coach Tanner Gary said. “We haven’t turned the ball four times in a game this year. I’m not entirely sure we turned the ball more than twice in a game this year. It stings. I was happy to be on the same field with them, the tradition, the things that they have done, and I wanted to see how we stacked up.

“The sad part is, I still don’t really know, because I don’t think we played very well.”

Scoring Summary

Fort Cherry (15-1) 0 0 0 8-8

Steelton-Highspire (16-0) 14 20 8 0-42

1st Quarter

SH – Jaeion Perry 5 pass from Alex Erby (Judah Hernandez kick), 8:23

SH – Nazier Fuller 17 pass from Erby (Hernandez kick), 5:09

2nd Quarter

SH – Erby 37 run (Hernandez kick), 6:53

SH – Fuller 77 pass from Erby (Hernandez kick), 4:31

SH – Durrell Ceasar Jr. 32 pass from Erby (kick failed), 3:25

3rd Quarter

SH – Taevon Legrande 3 pass from Erby (Perry run), 6:44

4th Quarter

FC – Matt Sieg 4 run (Sieg run), 1:47




RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 43-159/27-135


Passes Cmp-Att-Int 4-12-2/29-39-1


Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0/0-0

Punt Returns-Yards 0-0/1-7

Kickoff Returns-Yards 7-100/1-31

Interception Returns-Yards 1-1/2-17

Punts (Number-Avg) 3-27.0/0-0.0

Fumbles-Lost 2-2/0-0

Penalties-Yards 4-40/9-95

Possession Time 22:26/25:34

Third-Down Conversions 2 of 12 3 of 8

Fourth-Down Conversions 1 of 5/2 of 5

Red-Zone Scores-Chances 1-2/3-4

Joseph Santoliquito is a hall-of-fame, award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito [].

Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball

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