Eleven year wait comes to an end as Seneca Valley shocks Tigers

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T.J. Holl was 5 years old the previous time Seneca Valley beat North Allegheny, still over nine years away from suiting up for the Raiders for the first time.

From his father Don, Seneca Valley's coach, he had seen the mounting frustration that comes with the inability to beat a conference rival over the course of his four-year tenure.

It may have taken the younger Holl 11 years to get to the moment he, his father and his teammates experienced, but after over a decade of shortcomings, it finally arrived.

Seneca Valley 20, North Allegheny 6

Seneca Valley takes on North Allegheny in Friday night high school football action. (Video by Lucas Good; 9/13/2013)

Holl finished with 201 total yards and two touchdowns as the host Raiders took advantage of several North Allegheny miscues to earn a 20-6 Northern Eight Conference win that gave them their first victory against the Tigers since 2002.

"I'm speechless right now," T.J. Holl, the team's quarterback, said. "I told everyone we were going to do it. We did it finally; we knocked them off, and you're going to see a lot more of that for years to come. It's a Seneca Valley tradition now."

In addition to seeing their streak against the Raiders (3-0) come to an end, the Tigers (2-1) also lost for the first time since Dec. 10, 2011.

On a night in which North Allegheny was going for its 13th consecutive victory against Seneca Valley -- on Friday the 13th, no less -- the game got off to an ominous start for both squads, one that foreshadowed a sometimes unsightly game.

Each team threw an interception on its first possession, and even when it appeared that Seneca Valley caught a break after a North Allegheny fumble on its 20, Holl threw an interception on the very next play. Elijah Zeise recorded both of the Tigers' interceptions.

But on their next drive, the Raiders wouldn't need fortunate field position to get their first breakthrough.

Within a few feet of being sacked, Holl lofted a pass that connected with Eric Mrkonja for a 24-yard touchdown that gave Seneca Valley a 6-0 lead.

Late in the second quarter, the Tigers had their third fumble of the half. This time, the Raiders capitalized, going 45 yards in five plays, a drive punctuated with a 5-yard touchdown run from Mason Dehart to extend the lead to 13-0.

On two occasions in the fourth quarter, North Allegheny began to march the field, only to have a turnover halt its progress.

First, it was a fumble by quarterback Jeff Clemens on his 32 with 10:16 remaining. And with the Tigers on the Seneca Valley 36 with just under six minutes remaining, Clemens threw his second interception of the night to all but ice the game.

"I'll be balanced and say it's a conference win, it's a section win and every one of those is critical," Don Holl said. "But I'm not an idiot -- they hadn't lost in our league in a long time, and we hadn't beaten them in a longer time."

North Allegheny's late mistakes were emblematic of an uncharacteristically sloppy performance in which they turned the ball over six times. A touchdown pass from Clemens as time expired prevented the Tigers from being shut out for the first time since 2006.

But for all their opponent's mistakes, the night belonged to the Raiders, a team highlighted by a father-son duo that was, at last, able to break through.

"I can't tell you how many texts I got before this game that said, 'Do it for us Raiders that could never do it, do it for everybody that wants it, do it for the crowd, do it for the school,' " T.J. Holl said.

"It's surreal. Twelve years of losing to our biggest rival, it's just surreal. We did it, finally."


Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.


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