Seneca Valley quarterback Jordan Brown led the WPIAL in passing yardage in the 2011 regular season. The Raiders' Forrest Barnes is one of the better running backs in Class AAAA.
So, obviously Seneca Valley has impressive offensive personnel. But North Allegheny's defense took things personal.
North Allegheny's defense flexed its muscle Friday night, and the Tigers pounded visiting Seneca Valley, 45-3, at Newman Stadium in a matchup of two of the top five ranked teams in WPIAL Class AAAA.
"We heard a lot about their offense the past three weeks, and our defense took it personal," said North Allegheny coach Art Walker.
The Northern Eight Conference win stretched North Allegheny's winning streak against WPIAL teams to 19 games as the Tigers (3-0, 2-0 conference) continued their dominance of Seneca Valley. It was the Tigers' 11th win in a row against their Route 19 neighbors, and most have been routs. In those 11 wins, North Allegheny has outscored Seneca Valley, 439-91.
But there was reason to believe this one could be different.
Seneca Valley (2-1, 2-1) came into the game with high hopes, a potent offense and the Post-Gazette's No. 5 ranking in WPIAL Class AAAA. North Allegheny was No. 1 in the WPIAL and the state. But, when Seneca Valley took the opening kickoff and marched downfield for a go-ahead field goal, it looked as if the Raiders were primed to at least make a game of it for once.
But Seneca Valley had only 150 yards offense the rest of the game. Brown finished 9 of 21 for 96 yards and Barnes was held to 15 yards on eight carries.
The score was tied, 3-3, after the first quarter.
"They have some great offensive players and they've done some great things the past few years," Walker said. "For our defense to keep them out of the end zone, against a very good offensive team, a no-huddle team that does a lot of different things, my hat goes off to the defense."
North Allegheny's defensive line and linebackers played extremely well, and senior defensive lineman Jeremy Gonzales was a force much of the game. Besides making a number of tackles, Gonzales also blocked a punt that teammate Kevin Edwards picked up and ran 5 yards for North Allegheny's first touchdown in the second quarter. That put the Tigers ahead for good.
"Jeremy Gonzales is probably the most underrated defensive linemen out there," Walker said. "I don't know if there is anyone quicker off the ball. It's one of those things where if you want to double-team [Michigan recruit] Pat Kugler because he's so big, then you have to single block Jeremy. And if you want to double Jeremy, then you have to single Pat. They're good friends and they feed off one another on the inside."
Although North Allegheny scored 45 points, the Tigers offense was sluggish much of the first half. A 27-yard field goal by Jason Buchert and an 8-yard pass from Mack Leftwich to Gregg Garrity on a fourth-down play provided the other first-half points as the Tigers took a 17-3 lead to the locker room.
On North Allegheny's first possession of the second half, Elijah Zeise caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Leftwich. Zeise, a junior who did not play last week because of an injured shoulder, also had an interception. Alex DeCiantis had scoring runs of 7 and 27 yards in the second half, and Sean Idowu closed the scoring with an 8-yard run.
Leftwich finished 8 of 16 for 137 yards, and North Allegheny had 403 yards offense.
"The difference between us and them right now is that when we have adversity, we don't respond quite the way they do," said Seneca Valley coach Don Holl. "We should've scored a touchdown on the first drive, but they found a way to keep us out of the end zone. We do the same thing to them, but then they block a punt and make a big play."
Seneca Valley's last victory against North Allegheny was in 2002.
"There is no way of saying this without it coming off as sour grapes," Holl said. "But our kids fight so hard on defense, and no one calls a holding penalty on [North Allegheny] ever. There has to be 75 holding penalties on them. Until some [officiating] crew steps up and says they're holding and gives people a chance when they come in here, then no one is going to beat them.
"This game is squarely on our offense and special-teams tonight. They outplayed us and outcoached us. But our kids are fighting and scratching, and they can't get a call."
First Published September 15, 2012 4:15 AM