WEXFORD — A rivalry game is always best served in a win-or-go-home scenario.
The North Allegheny football team ran the ball for 253 yards as the Tigers defeated rival Seneca Valley 21-7 in a WPIAL 6A semifinal at Newman Stadium Friday night.
It was a grind. Seneca Valley's defense saw to that.
“Patience. Gotta have patience,” North Allegheny coach Art Walker said. “(Seneca Valley) does a really good job defensively. We knew it was not going to be easy. We just stayed patient and tried not to do anything stupid.”
The Tigers will face Central Catholic next week in the WPIAL 6A championship after the Vikings defeated Mt. Lebanon 35-7 Friday night.
Seneca managed just 77 offensive yards against a Tigers defense that was allowing only 10.2 points per game this season.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers got two touchdowns in the second from running back Nathan Hoke. The back-breaker for the Raiders came on Hoke's plunge into the end zone from the 1 with just 6 seconds left.
“It was a tight game,” Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle said. “If they didn't score before halftime, I think it would be a different game, but we couldn't get the defense off on third down.”
The Raiders have been dealing with injuries on the offensive side of the ball all season, which made way for sophomore Graham Hancox to make his first career start Friday night.
“I thought Graham did a good job tonight,” Butschle said. “He's a good player, but we wanted to see if we could get something going. We've been playing musical quarterbacks since week two — and running backs.”
Hancox ended the day 8 of 23 for 31 yards and two interceptions.
North Allegheny added another touchdown late in the third quarter off a Khalil Dinkins 14-yard touchdown run to take a 21-0 lead into the fourth.
The Raiders finally got on the board early in the fourth when Deontae Webb picked up a Tiger fumble and returned it 85 yards for the score.
In the end, the defensive score would not be enough as two Seneca drives stalled in the fourth to help NA secure a 14-point win and a trip to the WPIAL finals for the first time since 2012.
Friday was the first matchup of the season between these rivals, with their regular season game cancelled earlier in the season because of COVID-19.
North Allegheny treated Friday night as a revenge game of sorts after the Raiders played spoiler the past few years in the playoffs.
“We got knocked out by Seneca Valley I think two of the past three years,” Walker said. “We remembered that, approached things differently, and our kids just handled it and they get all the credit.”
Seneca Valley 0 0 0 7 — 7
N. Allegheny 0 14 7 0 — 21
NA — Nathan Hoke 7 run (Brandon Persad kick), 8:37
NA — Hoke 1 run (Persad kick), :06
NA — Khalil Dinkins 14 run (Persad kick), 2:11
SV — Deontae Webb 85 fumble return (Adam Davies), 7:57
Rushing:Seneca Valley, Nolan Dworek 12, Ethan West 11-36, Connor Lyczek 3-7, Graham Hancox 2-1. North Allegheny, Nathan Hoke 6-43, Khalil Dinkins 7-67, J.R. Burton 17-95, Mason Kress 6-32, Gregg Phillips 3-16.
Passing:Seneca Valley, Graham Hancox 8-23-31-2. North Allegheny, Gregg Phillips 7-14-111-1
Receiving:Seneca Valley, Nolan Dworek 2-7, James Sprentz 3-21, Luke Lawson 1-1, Aiden Lyczek 1-1, Mitchell Curran 1-1. North Allegheny, Sean Metcalf 2-19, Mason Kress 3-47, Taylor Dwayne 2-45