MT. LEBANON — On a night when offense was hard to come by for both teams, Mt. Lebanon had to lean on Evan Jones.
And he did not disappoint.
The do-everything senior rushed for 196 yards and all five of his team's touchdowns as the Blue Devils scored a 35-14 victory against Seneca Valley in a WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinal playoff Friday at Mt. Lebanon Stadium.
Aside from Jones' rushing effort, the Blue Devils managed just 39 yards of offense. He played most of the first half at running back before taking the snaps for nearly all of the final two quarters at quarterback.
“We were prepared for him, but they hadn't used him like that in a while,” said SV coach Ron Butschle. “He was their guy tonight.”
Jones' 14-yard scoring run on the first drive of the night was Mt. Lebanon's lone score in the first 2½ quarters of the game and when the Raiders' Matt Stanger scored from five yards out with 7:56 left in the third quarter, SV led 14-7.
Gabe Lawson intercepted Jones on Mt. Lebanon's next drive, but the Raiders (4-7) had to punt from their own end zone. That's when Jones' legs combined with SV miscues to end the Raiders' season.
His 10-yard touchdown run tied the score at 14 and the Blue Devils (7-4) quickly got the ball back when Matt Wertz recovered Brandon Weaver's fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
Two plays later, Jones scored on a 28-yard run for a 21-14 edge.
The Raiders were unable to pick up a first down and Jones was soon back at it.
SV tallied just 91 yards of offense in the game and picked up just three first downs in the second half.
“Turnovers, 3-and-outs, it was the same things that hurt us all year,” said Butschle. “We just never got going on offense tonight.”
Joey Daniels, Mt. Lebanon's starting quarterback, returned early in the fourth quarter to complete a crucial pass. Facing a 4th-and-5 from SV's 24, he found Sam LeSota for a 10-yard gain. Jones scored on the next play for a 28-14 lead.
“That was huge,” said Blue Devils coach Bob Palko. “Joey has been doing it all year for us. The fact that he wasn't in there a lot tonight wasn't a reflection on him. We have several packages in place and the one with Evan taking snaps just got used a lot tonight.”
Lawson was picked off by Eli Heidenreich on SV's next play and Jones capped the scoring with a 10-yard run with 8:05 left in the game.
The Raiders were without their leading rusher, Ethan West, for the second straight week. But sophomore Nolan Dworek provided a spark with 61 yards on 11 carries in the first half.
Dworek's 14-yard run helped set up Lawson's 1-yard sneak for a touchdown that tied the game at 7-all with eight minutes left in the second quarter.
Dworek was injured before halftime and did not return.
Palko was pleased with the win, but knows his team must clean things up if it is to hang with top-seeded Central Catholic in the semifinals next week.
The Blue Devils muffed a punt late in the first quarter Friday that was recovered by Cole Mrkonja. The Raiders gave the ball right back when Lawson's tipped pass was intercepted by Jack Sullivan at Mt. Lebanon's 15.
“Both teams were hurt by turnovers tonight,” said Palko. “We also had a bad snap on a punt (that went for a 23-yard loss). Those are things we just can't have.”
SV was unable to sustain momentum this season, but Butschle hopes his players treat it as a learning experience.
“There were ups and downs and it was like a snapshot of life,” he said. “Hopefully, the guys can take something from it that will help them as they become men.”