ALTOONA -- The way they moved said everything you needed to know. Two quarters had been played. Two were left. This game wasn't over, but it didn't look that way.
Wilson's players walked slowly on the way to the locker room at halftime. North Allegheny's players were jogging. They were fired up. At halftime and by the end, this game was all about them and their physicality and their defense and their sharp execution on third and fourth down.
North Allegheny defeated Wilson 45-10 on Saturday at Mansion Park Stadium in the PIAA state semifinal, advancing to the state championship in which it will face Coatesville next week.
There was a scare, sort of, in roughly the same way there was a scare for North Allegheny last week. Like it did against McDowell, North Allegheny fell behind after allowing an early touchdown.
This one came on the first play of the game. Wilson's Jesse Poore returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
Like that it was 7-0, and like that North Allegheny had to play again from behind.
Thing is, it hasn't mattered yet, and that was the case on Saturday. What the kickoff team had failed to do in containing Wilson, the defense more than made up for it. In the first quarter, it didn't allow Wilson to get a first down.
In the second quarter, Wilson had its best opportunity to score again, driving into North Allegheny territory. The Tigers stopped the drive by forcing Wilson to lose yards on consecutive rushes and then to have a bad snap on fourth down.
Where Wilson failed on the important downs, North Allegheny excelled. The Tigers converted four-of-four fourth down attempts and nine-of-14 third down attempts.
Late in the first quarter, with the game tied, North Allegheny faced a fourth and four and fourth and eight. It converted both, completing the latter with an 18-yard pass to Gregg Garrity that set up a five-yard touchdown run for quarterback Mack Leftwich.
Brendan Coniker had a nine-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, and Ben Ziolkowski kicked a 37-yard field goal with no time left in the first half.
North Allegheny added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter -- one on a three-yard pass to Coniker, and the other a 15-yard pass to Garrity, on fourth down, naturally.
The dominant win means North Allegheny is back. Last year, the Tigers lost in this game. The year before, they won the state title.