The Perry High School football team celebrates after winning the City League football championship at Cupples Stadium on Saturday.
By Mike White Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The mascot on the sideline for the University Prep Wildcats was a bird. There was a punt for minus-7 yards in the game and there were 20 penalties between the two teams.
Despite all those strange things, the most bizarre part of the City League football championship Saturday was the ending. A field goal deciding a City League title game? From Perry? By a player who doesn't even attend Perry and became the team's kicker only a week ago?
Cornelio Coates kicked a 27-yard field goal in overtime to give Perry a 9-6 victory against University Prep at Cupples Stadium on the South Side.
Field goals are a rarity in the City League. There had been only four among all City League teams this season and no more than five in the past seven seasons. On top of that, Perry hadn't made a field goal since 2009 and had only 10 in the previous 12 seasons.
"A field goal?" said Perry coach Bill Gallagher, "and you see, over the course of the season, we were probably 3 of 50 in extra points."
But with Perry facing fourth-and-goal from the 9 in overtime, Gallagher turned to Coates, who lives on the North Side and attends Pittsburgh CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts). CAPA doesn't have a football team, so he plays for Perry.
He is a receiver who became the kicker last week.
"The coaches found out I started playing soccer since I was 5, so they asked me to kick," Coates said.
And Coates kicked University Prep (5-3) off the throne of defending City League champion. Perry (8-2) won its second title in three years and ninth since 1997.
The game was scoreless at halftime, but Perry took a 6-0 lead on Robert Willie's 9-yard touchdown run. The extra-point kick was blocked. University Prep tied it with 7:54 left in the game on Ryan Daniels' 4-yard run.
But University Prep tried a trick play on the extra point, as kicker Dan Denlinger took the direct snap in the "muddle huddle" formation. He rolled to the right and threw a pass that was intercepted by Chandler Houston.
Perry still needed a superb late-game defensive stand and some help from University Prep penalties to pull out the win.
University Prep was penalized 14 times for 136 yards. With less than two minutes left in the game, University Prep's Clay Moorefield turned a short pass into a 33-yard gain to the Perry 2. But a first-down run gained only 1 yard. An illegal procedure penalty and a holding penalty moved the ball back to the 18. Then quarterback Akil Young was sacked by Lloyd Reid for a 17-yard loss with eight seconds left in the game. A fourth-down pass was intercepted by Shakeem Cox and the game went into overtime.
In overtime, teams start at the 10-yard line. Young was sacked on first down and then threw three incomplete passes.
That set up Coates to be the hero.
"I just tried to relax and worry about the ball on the kicking block," Coates said.
Perry's defense was a key to the win. It held University Prep to minus-8 yards rushing. Young completed 12 of 32 for 191 yards, but was intercepted three times.
"That's a good offensive football team and we kept them in check," Gallagher said.