CANONSBURG — No one wants to start the conference season 0-2, especially when competing in the 6-A Quad County Conference.
That was the deficit facing Seneca Valley as the Raiders traveled south to face Canon-McMillan, who also was staring at an 0-2 conference start with a loss.
Thanks to quarterback Gabe Lawson and linebacker Josh Miller, the Raiders managed to avoid that fate and get their first win of the season.
Lawson threw three touchdown passes and Miller had 3½ sacks and a crucial fumble recovery as Seneca Valley earned a key 27-7 victory over Canon-McMillan at Memorial Stadium in Canonsburg.
“Every conference game is important,” said Raiders coach Ron Butschle. “When you're oh in the win column, it's good to get the first one.”
Neither team managed much offensively through most of the first quarter until Butschle subbed in junior Ethan West late in the opening quarter. West promptly ran for 12 yards on his first touch, then caught a short pass on the second play of the drive, broke a tackle and ran 76 yards for the game's opening points.
West would finish with game-highs of 80 yards rushing on 12 attempts and 106 yards receiving on just two receptions.
“He's a great player,” said Butschle. “He can catch the ball. He can run the ball. He's going to be a big part of what we do the next two years.”
Seneca Valley's momentum, however, seemed short-lived.
On the ensuing kickoff, Big Macs senior Blake Joseph found a seam and hustled 94 yards to the end zone, and just like that, the game was tied at 7.
But the Raiders (1-1, 1-2) actually kept the momentum after all, as they marched 71 yards on their next drive to regain a lead they would not relinquish. A pair of big runs by Matt Stanger (12 carries, 76 yards) opened things up for an eventual 31-yard touchdown pass from Lawson to Marciano McCowan.
A lucky break for the Raiders helped result in their third score of the game. Canon-McMillan's (0-2. 0-3) Connor McMahon hauled in a short pass on a third-and-19 play and was just about to go out of bounds when a Seneca Valley player got his helmet on the ball, jarring it not just loose but sending it bounding backwards 9 yards, where Miller pounced on it, setting up the Raiders at the Canon-McMillan 16.
It took four plays, but on fourth down, the Raiders scored on a 12-yard pass from Lawson to James Sprentz.
“The fumble was tough,” said Sohyda. “That was a big-boy hit. It was just a bad break at a bad time.”
Twice from that point on, Canon-McMillan managed to drive into the red zone but came up empty.
“Especially in the first half our defense played well,” said Butschle. “Bottom line is, our defense held them out of the end zone.”
Lawson completed 11 of 22 passes for 211 yards. In a losing effort, Big Macs quarterback Jon Quinque threw for 250 yards on 22 of 36 passing. Conor Hayes had a pick-six of 90 yards on the game's final play for Seneca Valley.
The road doesn't get easier for the Raiders, who travel next to Mt. Lebanon, fresh off a 63-7 thumping of Butler, but at least the Raiders have that first win.
“It's a lot better to take a step forward and make mistakes when you win the ballgame rather than last week,” said Butschle. “We got better but we lost, and that wasn't good enough, so this week was much better.”
Seneca Valley 7 7 7 6 — 27
Canon-Mac 7 0 0 0 — 7
SV — Ethan West 76 pass from Gabe Lawson (Adam Davies kick), 1:31
C-M — Blake Joseph 94 kick return (Ben Popup kick), 1:17
SV — Marciano McCowan 31 pass from Lawson (Davies kick), 10:41
SV — James Sprentz 12 pass from Lawson (Davies kick), 3:14
SV — Conor Hayes 90 interception return, :00
Rushing: Seneca Valley, Gabe Lawson 5-2, Matt Stanger 12-76, Mitchell Curran 1-0, Ethan West 12-80, Dustin BHorn 3-19. Canon-McMillan, Ryan Anderson 15-60, Jon Quinque 6-(-19), Isaiah Chandler 3-9.
Passing: Seneca Valley, Gabe Lawson 12-22-211-0, Dustin Horn 0-2-0-0. Canon-McMillan,Jon Quinque 22-36-250-2.
Receiving: Seneca Valley, Matt Stanger 1-4, Mehki Gay 1-24, Ethan West 2-106, Connor Lycek 3-27, Marciano McCowan 1-31, James Sprentz 3-24. Canon-McMillan, Blake Joseph 4-49, Caleb Rancher 6-53, Angott 6-89, Connor McMahon 3-28, Lamont Lyons 1-4, David Millar 1-15, Mario Eafrati 1-12.