As the kickoff drew near Friday night between Gateway and Penn Hills, there was almost a basketball-
like atmosphere. The Gateway student section, dressed in black and gold, was cheering loudly and the Penn Hills percussion section was aiding in the pre-game revelry. Then, the Gators went out on the field, holding hands marching 2-by-2 to the beat of its own drum.
|BIG DEFENSIVE PLAY—JayVaughn Kirkland of Penn Hills bats down a pass by Gateway quarterback Thomas Woodson.
But in front of one of the largest crowd ever to fill Walter “Pete” Antimarino Stadium, the Penn Hills “road warriors” left with bragging rights and an 18-7 victory. Both teams are led by outstanding Black head coaches, Gateway’s Terry Smith and Penn Hills’ Ron Graham.
The 2010 edition of the Penn Hills Indians has the potential to be very, very good. They entered the season having to replace graduating seniors, including defensive lineman Aaron Donald (Pitt), linebacker Myles Davis (Syracuse), cornerback Cullen Christian (Michigan) and wide-receiver-cornerback Brandon Ifill (Pitt).
Sophomore Aaron Bailey got the Indians on the board first with a 4-yard touchdown run. Gateway blocked the kick and Penn Hills led 6-0.
Penn Hills extended its lead to 12-0 when Corey “If I’m even, I’m leavin’” Jones sprinted around left end for a 49-yard touchdown run.
Jones, who is like a thoroughbred racehorse, with great speed and athletic ability on his side, vaulted out of the stable with a game high 103 yards rushing, trampling the Gators.
Jones, who already returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, is establishing himself as one of the top game breakers in the area and WPIAL.
Hopewell junior Rushel Shell is the best in the nation and Schenley’s Deandre Black is the most underrated game breaker.
Jones is a breath of fresh air with all the WPIAL superstars out with injuries.
West Allegheny’s Mike Caputo, Gateway’s Dondi Kirby, Chartiers Valley’s Wayne Capers, Woodland Hills’ Lafayette Pitts, Charleroi’s Quentin Briggs and Aliquippa’s Troy Jeter are all down and out.
Penn Hills’ Jones and offensive coordinator Demond Gibson are ready to reveal “secret weapons” to all their fans.
Gibson, who captained the Penn Hills 1995 State Championship team, delved into the psychological factors that could seriously affect victory or defeat. Having been on the biggest high school, college and professional stages himself, Gibson knows the mindset it takes to win at Penn Hills.
“A great running game and defense is what wins championships,” said Gibson.
“When I played at Penn Hills we had two 1,500- plus yard rushers. The greatest feeling for an offensive lineman is to move somebody off the ball against his will.” Smith
woke up his troops after halftime when “super sophomore” Darin Franklin returned the second half kickoff 56 yards to the Indians 39-yard line. Quarterback Thomas Woodson passed 23 yards to Wayne Blye for a touchdown to cut the lead to 12-7. New Gateway field general Woodson is only a sophomore, but the young quarterback has some big shoes to fill.
Rob Kalkstein, the former four-year starter, passed for more than 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns last year. Kalkstein is one of the WPIAL’s all-time passing leader with over 6,000 career yards.
“This is my ninth year as the head coach of Gateway and this is my youngest team,” said Smith. “I really like our secondary. We converted Nolan Toran and Armstead Williams from linebacker to safety. We have a very physical defense.”
Penn Hills won in spite of itself at times—the Indians committed 10 penalties for over 100 yards. The mistakes did little to level the playing field, because Gateway committed 14 penalties and threw four interceptions.
The final touchdown came courtesy of junior running back Malik Bateman, who scored on a 23-yard scamper to give the Indians a very rare victory at Gateway. Most teams that enter Antimarino Stadium have a very negative, defeatist attitude, but Jones is a different cat and Gibson has the winning formula.