PIAA Class AAAA Championship: North Allegheny vs. Coatsville
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As quarterback storylines go, this PIAA Class AAAA championship game is unique.
North Allegheny takes on Coatesville in the title game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. Since the PIAA playoffs started in 1988, there has never been a championship game like this one, matching two quarterbacks who have more than 6,000 yards passing between them.
North Allegheny senior Mack Leftwich and Coatesville's Emmett Hunt have a combined 6,116 yards passing. Leftwich, a senior, has thrown for 3,132 yards while Hunt, also a senior, has thrown for 2,984 yards. Both have 43 touchdown passes each, and this QB showdown is not lost on Leftwich.
"Definitely big games can sometimes come down to the guy you have calling your shots. He can be the difference," Leftwich said. "But I have confidence in our defense, too. I'm sure we'll put together a game plan to try and stop them, and I'm sure they will try to do the same."
But few have succeeded in slowing down these two QBs. Leftwich (5 feet 11, 190 pounds) is only the third quarterback in WPIAL history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. He has completed 161 of 248 passes, and has been at his best in the postseason. In six WPIAL and PIAA playoff games, Leftwich is 81 of 121 (67 percent) for 1,411 yards and 20 touchdowns.
On Tuesday night, Leftwich accepted a scholarship from the University of Texas at El Paso, a Division I-A program. He had made a verbal commitment earlier this fall to Stephen F. Austin, an NCAA Division I-AA school in Texas. But Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler recently got the UTEP job and offered a scholarship to Leftwich, who accepted immediately.
Kugler's son, Pat, is a star lineman and a teammate of Leftwich at North Allegheny.
Many Division I-A schools didn't recruit Leftwich, mainly because they thought he was too small for their level.
"I know how Mack is and I think he'll take this [PIAA championship game] personal," North Allegheny coach Art Walker said. "I know he'll want to do better than his counterpart just to make sure his team wins.
"With Mack, I think he's constantly trying to prove he can do it. This [Hunt] kid is 6 feet 2 and more of a prototype passer. I was just on a conference call with reporters and Coatesville's coach [Matt Ortega] said he was impressed with Mack's arm for how short he is.
"When Mack hears things like that, it motivates him, but in the right way. It motivates him to do his part and prove people wrong. I think that's the thing that burns inside of him that people don't realize."
Ortega certainly knows Leftwich's worth.
"He can beat you with his legs, beat you with his arm," Ortega said. "He's had an unbelievable year and the offense ebbs and flows with him."
Just like Coatesville does with Hunt. The Raiders' season has been an interesting one; they changed offensive styles early in the season. They went from being a power running team to a spread offense -- and the Raiders and Hunt have excelled. After starting 2-2, Coatesville has won 12 in a row.
Hunt (6-2, 190 pounds) is in his first year as a starter and has helped the Raiders average 48.8 points over the past five games. Coatesville defeated La Salle College, 42-35, in the PIAA semifinals.
Besides Hunt, Coatesville also has running back DaQuan Worley, who has 1,599 yards on 217 attempts, and receiver Chris Jones, who has 68 receptions for 1,490 yards.
Coatesville fans have taken to calling the Raiders' offense "The Greatest Show On Turf."
"They're fast," Walker said. "They have three kids who can turn a routine bubble screen into a 75-yard touchdown play. They're probably similar offensively to Seneca Valley, but faster. On paper, they're faster than us."
But while Coatesville's offense has been impressive, the Raiders' defense has allowed 35, 28 and 28 points in the past four games.
"We've played 15 games so far and not one team has had too much success in stopping us," Leftwich said. "Teams have tried to do different things to stop us. We've seen a lot of different things and I think that will make us more prepared going into this game."
First Published December 14, 2012 12:00 am