North Xtra: North Allegheny finishes strong

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The dominance of the North Allegheny football team as it rolled to the PIAA Class AAAA state championship can be expressed by statistics.

The Tigers went 16-0, had an average margin of victory of 31.1 points, allowed just 8.8 points a game and won 14 of their 16 games by at least 25 points. Their only one-score game came in the WPIAL championship game when they got past Woodland Hills, 21-14.

In three PIAA playoffs games, North Allegheny scored an average of 54.7 points, including posting a season high in its 63-28 dismantling of Coatesville in the championship game Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey.

When North Allegheny coach Art Walker looks back on this season, however, he won't remember specific numbers. Instead, he said, his memories will be on a group of players and coaches who never wavered from their commitment to excellence, particularly a senior class that went 42-2 over the past three seasons with three WPIAL titles and two PIAA crowns.

"They were willing to do everything it took to be successful because they wanted to be successful very badly," Walker said. "They really cared about each other and being the best team that we could be. They really came together and did everything that was always for the good of the team.

"It takes an awful lot of time and effort to accomplish what we did, both by the players and the coaching staff. I'm not so sure that a lot of people who are not directly involved understands how much you put into it, but everyone in our program was willing to do everything necessarily that would enable us to be a championship team."

It always helps to have talent to go along with the effort and North Allegheny had plenty of star power this year.

Senior quarterback Mack Leftwich passed for 3,331 yards and 45 touchdowns while being intercepted just four times. A Texas-El Paso recruit, he completed 175 of his 268 passes for an outstanding 65 percent.

Leftwich was also North Allegheny's second-leading rusher with 533 yards and caught one pass for 4 yards as he amassed 3,872 yards of total offense.

Gregg Garrity was Leftwich's top target, catching 67 passes for 1,240 yards. Zach Lyon added 28 receptions for 581 yards and Elijah Zeise was the big-play receiver averaging 29.4 yards a catch as he had 23 receptions for 677 yards.

Alex DiCiantis was a workmanlike running back in his final season of football before going on to college to wrestle at Drexel. He gained 1,287 yards on 233 carries.

North Allegheny will have a lot of new faces when next season begins as 19 of the 22 starting positions this year were filled by seniors. The good news, though, is that the reserves got plenty of playing time with North Allegheny winning so many lopsided games and also a lot of extra practice time as the Tigers' season stretched an extra seven weeks into mid-December.

For now, however, North Allegheny is going to savor its state title before starting work on trying to defend its crown.

"We probably only had a couple of days off since [training] camp started back in August," Walker said. "Everyone worked very hard. We took it in seven-day increments.

"We worked as hard as we could and focused on the next opponent for seven days then we kept doing it over again until we reached our ultimate goal."



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