NORTH HUNTINGDON TWP — Jake Mineweaser had a week to think about being the feature back in Seneca Valley's offense.
The senior then went out and made the most of it.
Mineweaser used his 24 carries to chew up 159 yards and score two touchdowns as the Raiders closed the regular season with a 21-13 victory at Norwin Friday night.
The performance came after he gained 94 yards on just six carries in a 21-7 loss to Pine-Richland Oct. 19. In that game, starting halfback Matt Stanger was injured and was not available for Friday's contest.
“I was just looking forward to running the ball a lot, like the old youth football days. I got a break from blocking tonight,” said Mineweaser. “It was a good game.”
“Jake stepped up tonight, big time,” said SV coach Ron Butschle. “He took advantage of the opportunity. He had 159 yards and two touchdowns, that's a heck of a game!”
Mineweaser's 49 rushing yards accounted for all of SV's offense in the first half. He scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to put the Raiders up 7-3 late in the first half, but Norwin answered with a short scoring toss from Gianni Rizzo to Jake Merlin to lead 10-7 at the break.
A cold, steady rain fell for virtually the entire game and SV's passing attack was not a factor. The Raiders continued to feed Mineweaser in the second half.
He scored from 25 yards out early in the third quarter as SV took back the lead, 14-10. On the next drive, however, Mineweaser had his lone mistake of the night.
Following a 14-yard run down to Norwin's 20-yard line, he fumbled and Norwin recovered with 3:55 left in the third quarter.
“I got hit from behind,” Mineweaser said. “I was eager to get back out there and contribute again.”
That opportunity came early in the fourth quarter. Norwin's Carter Breen had just booted a 32-yard field goal to cut SV's edge to 14-13.
The Raiders then turned in a game-defining drive, staying exclusively on the ground on a 9-play, 74-yard march during which Mineweaser carried five times for 25 yards. Quarterback Gabe Lawson capped the drive with a 22-yard run, breaking a tackle two yards short of a first down on 3rd-and-4, cutting to the outside and lunging for the end zone with several Norwin defenders on his tail.
Seth Winters added the extra point and the lead was 21-13. Norwin's final drive reached the Raider 44, but the Knights (3-7, 2-6) turned the ball over on downs with 1:34 left.
“We talked to our guys this week about finishing strong and I thought we played hard tonight,” said Norwin coach Dave Brozeski. “In the end, we just didn't make enough plays to win. Seneca has a big offensive line and their running back had a great game.”
“I was proud, especially of the way our offense played in the second half,” said Butschle. “Our line came out and controlled the line of scrimmage, we controlled the clock and put points on the board.”
Norwin quarterback Jack Salopek finished with 132 passing yards and 57 on the ground. His two carries for 28 yards on the opening drive were integral in the Knights scoring first on Breen's 22-yard field goal.
“I can't say we were prepared for that,” Butschle said of Salopek's running ability. “I'm sure the weather conditions had something to do with their play selection.”
The Raiders (7-3, 5-3) will enter the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs on a winning note and, most importantly, with momentum.
“This time last year, we walked off the field with a 3-6 record and our season was over,” said Butschle. “Now we're 7-3 and headed to the playoffs.”
Despite the Raiders' victory, they will not be hosting a quarterfinal playoff game. Mt. Lebanon's 17-7 upset win over Central Catholic created a three-way tie for third place in the conference standings. The Blue Devils earn third place thanks to tiebreaker points over the Vikings and Raiders.
The Vikings are the fourth-place team due to a 20-14 win over SV in August. The Raiders finish in fifth place and will hit the road for their first playoff game.