The WPIAL couldn’t have scripted it better: Halloween weekend, the cage of Tiger Stadium, crisp fall temperatures and No. 1 Gateway versus No. 2 McKeesport in arguably the state’s biggest game of the season.
How many times have you heard that the Quad-A is the king of all WPIAL football? A thousand times? Well, make it 1,001.
The undefeated Gators, who entered the game having outscored their opponents 383-52 in eight games this season, have broken the 50-point barrier three times and scored 76 points in a week 8 victory over Connellsville.
|NO REST—Gateway’s head coach Terry Smith congratulates his payers and staff on a great game against McKeesport. They now must prepare for the playoffs.
And the Tigers defensive unit, led by coordinator Ivan Hampton, has allowed just 57 points this season, which isn’t too bad either.
The last two seasons Gateway has had McKeesport’s number, with the Gators winning 17-6 in ’07 and 31-27 last season, in a game that came down to a controversial call in the end.
Coach Terry Smith heard the McKeesport talk of a payback and knew it would serve as a tremendous motivating force. These two teams have as much love for each other as Whoopi Goldberg has for Sarah Palin.
“This is a rivalry game for us,” said Smith. “We want to beat McKeesport just as bad as they want to beat us. We prepared for two weeks for this game..
In front of a capacity senior night crowd, Gateway beat McKeesport 35-14 at Weigle/Schaeffer Memorial Stadium.
Early on, the game lived up to its billing. Gateway got on the board after capitalizing on a fumbled McKeesport punt. Orne Bey, who is related to Major Harris, scored from three years out, and the Gators led, 7-0. McKeesport immediately countered. Set up by a long kickoff return to the Gateway 38, the Tigers took six plays to find paydirt.
Ty-Meer Brown quickly answered critics who claimed he was too one-dimensional and too dependent on his rushing ability. He hit Sam Gooden with a beautiful 20-yard touchdown pass and the score was tied.
The defenses reigned supreme for much of the half after those initial scores, until Gateway started a drive from its own 7-yard line with 5:53 left in the first half. Then, the complexion of the game changed.
Gateway took the ball 93 yards in 18 plays, and ran 5:38 of game clock while accumulating six first downs. Quarterback Rob Kalkstein capped the drive with a one-yard plunge with 15 seconds left in the half, and Gateway held a 14-7 lead.
In the third quarter the Tigers must have developed a case of sleep apnea.
The McKeesport defense allowed Bey to do his best Major Harris impersonation as he found a crease along the sideline and out sprinted the defenders for an apparent 80-yard touchdown. The play was called back because of a holding penalty.
But while a handful of crusty ol’ referees took away his efforts, Bey’s hard work and dedication didn’t go unnoticed. He led all rushers with over 108 yards.
Gateway pushed the margin to 21-7 when Brendon Felder, the North Carolina recruit, darted in from 10 yards out with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
Kalkstein scored on a 13-yard run, and Gateway pushed the lead to 28-7.
McKeesport fumbled the ensuing kickoff attempt and Gateway recovered. When Gateway sees McKeesport Tiger Red the Gators seem to turn into a group of charging bulls. Kalkstein hit a streaking Felder on a 35-yard record setting bomb down the visiting sideline to cap the Gators’ scoring.
Kalkstein’s touchdown pass was the 64th of his career and he is the first WPIAL quarterback to throw 64 or more touchdown passes in his career. He is now tied for 13th place in state history with Forest Hills’ Brandon Bailey and Mount Carmel’s Marcus Wasilewski.
Kalkstein’s also moved into fifth place on the WPIAL’s all-time passing yardage list with 5,800. Moving past West Allegheny’s Tyler Palko, Penn Hills’ Anthony Morelli and Seton-La Salle’s and Pitt star Bill Stull.
A four-year starter, Kalkstein, whose nickname is the “Doctor,” is more surgeon than slinger, a ruthlessly efficient quarterback.
“He’s our franchise,” said coach Terry Smith. “This is his team and this is a very talented football team. We have had 16 different players score touchdowns for us this season.”
Gateway was “on-call” all night, rolling up 415 yards of offense and 24 first downs. The Gators ran for 231 yards and Kalkstein threw for another 184 on a 16-of-26 night.
Darien Robinson, the Tigers’ leading rusher with more than 1,200 yards, was held to 58 yards on 14 carries. He capped the game’s scoring with a two-yard run with 4:08 left in the game. Brown completed 6-of-9 passes for 87 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Gateway seems to be the only team that has the blueprint for stopping McKeesport’s flexbone offense. “Every team has the same blue-print to stop the option,” said Smith. “But you to have the right builders. At Gateway we have the right builders.”
“We we’re ready for this game and my son and some of the other seniors are taking it hard,” said Tim Brown, Ty-Meer’s fathers and a former WVU star. “We believe that we’ll see them again at Heinz Field.”
In three of the last four years, the winner of McKeesport-Gateway has gone on to at least the WPIAL championship; in 2005, McKeesport went on to win the PIAA Quad-A championship.
Gateway finished 9-0 overall and unbeaten in conference play for the third consecutive year and once more, Gateway is the alpha of the WPIAL. To win the war, it’s often said you have to win the battles and have a take-no-prisoners approach.
Smith got a plan and he intends to implement it with ferocious dedication as he has in everything he’s done in his career up till now. It is that Holy Grail-like pursuit of the WPIAL title.
If Gateway and McKeesport meet again in the WPIAL championship game, Smith’s players will be the one’s wearing their tool belts.