East Xtra: Historic win has Yough excited

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Allowing 42 points isn't the prototypical formula for recording your first playoff win in school history, but it was the formula that worked for Yough last Friday night.

Of course, it helps when your offense can put up 57 points.

"The kids are very, very excited," Cougars coach Mark Crovak said. "It's special. Those kids have worked so hard since they were freshmen to turn this thing around. It's a nice feeling."

It is even nicer that as a No. 13 seed in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs, it came on the road against previously undefeated Allegheny Conference champion Kittanning. The Wildcats (9-1) were the No. 4 seed.

Even coming into the game as a huge underdog, the Cougars (6-4) had confidence in their ability to stay with the Wildcats.

"Our kids are a pretty loose group," Crovak said. "They were confident. We asked them to focus on one play at a time and we pulled it out."

That was evident from the start. In what proved to be a shootout from the beginning of the game, quarterback Tyler Donahue got the Cougars on the scoreboard with an 86-yard kickoff return to tie the score after Kittanning scored on its first possession.

"There is no doubt," Crovak said about Donahue's play jumpstarting the Cougars. "Our heads were hanging after they scored. He did a great job of turning that momentum around in our favor."

That was only the start of Donahue's exceptional performance. He would finish the game 15 of 19 passing for 244 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 141 yards and another two scores plus the kickoff return to give him five total touchdowns in the game.

"He started a few games for us as a freshman," Crovak said. "Anyone who saw him as a freshman saw he got by on his athletic ability for three years. He has come around. He is a pretty special athlete.

"I think it is maturity. It comes to a point where he realizes what he needs to do. He has invested in the mental reps to do what he needs to do."

It was fortunate that Donahue had his "A" game working because neither defense did. After the first quarter, the teams were tied at 20-20.

"I thought that might be the score at halftime," Crovak said. "I thought after the end of the first quarter someone was going to hit 80. It was something.

"We are happy to win, obviously. I'm not happy that we gave up 42. Kittanning is a special team. We thought going into the game it was going to be a shootout. We thought we matched up pretty well with them. Our kids came through."

Another welcoming site for the Cougars was the play of running back Clay Waldron. Waldron rushed for 142 yards and scored three touchdowns.

"Clay is no surprise," Crovak said. "He has been doing it throughout the season and it is nice to have a dual threat."

The Cougars and Wildcats first-round matchup will go in the record books as the third-highest scoring game in WPIAL playoff history.

Crovak loves the play of his offense but realizes his defense is going to have to do a better job if the Cougars are going to have a chance in the quarterfinals against No. 3 Beaver Falls at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Canon-McMillan's Big Macs Stadium.

"On film they are scary good," Crovak said. "They are big and fast. ... They come after you on defense and we will be well prepared. We will be in a dogfight again on Friday."

In order to stop the Tigers, it is paramount that Yough controls the time of possession and forces Beaver Falls to abandon its running game.

"Our offense has to control the ball," Crovak said. "We need to keep their offense off the field."

Not only did Yough's first playoff win in school history give the Cougars confidence, but doing so in a hostile environment boosted their morale that they can pull off the same feat this week.

"There is no doubt," Crovak said. "At the beginning of the game we asked those guys to sacrifice. That's how you win a playoff game. You could see in their eyes at halftime that they were feeling it. They have the confidence now that they can play with anybody."

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