Gateway closes out Tigers
Playing Gateway is like watching for a bolt of lightning — blink, and you might miss something.
“You can’t take any plays off,” Hollidaysburg Area senior cornerback Trevor Miller said.
Miller and the Golden Tiger were able to keep pace with the high-flying WPIAL Class 5A champs for a quarter and a half on Saturday afternoon and were only down 11 at halftime with the second-half kickoff coming their way. However, Hollidaysburg couldn’t keep up for the whole game, and eventually the Gators put some space between themselves and the Tigers, rolling up 596 yards and scoring touchdowns on four of five possessions in the middle of the contest to move to the PIAA semifinals with a 49-30 win at Mansion Park.
Hollidaysburg finished the year 8-4 despite getting 280 yards of total offense and three passing touchdowns from junior quarterback Brady Walters, 103 yards and a score on the ground from senior Patrick Young and a 41-yard field goal from Vlad Hilling and forcing three first-half turnovers.
“We had it 14-14, and we were moving the ball, and we had a couple of penalties that really affected that possession. They went down and scored after that, and then they had a score right before the half that really hurt us,” Tiger coach Homer DeLattre said. “I was really proud of the way we kept playing hard.”
Gateway scored on three plays covering 30 yards or more. Gator quarterback Brady Walker threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another 95 yards and a 14-yard score — he had 283 yards through the air by halftime.
“We were sticking with them until we made some mistakes,” Young said. “Mistakes were key in this game.”
Walker’s main target was junior Courtney Jackson, who wound up with 11 receptions for 225 yards and was on the receiving end of 53- and 33-yard scoring tosses as the Gators turned a 14-all tie into a 42-17 lead in 17 minutes of game time. Jackson also took an end-around 78 yards to the end zone on the second play from scrimmage.
“They’ve got some fast kids. It was clear,” said Tiger senior safety Michael Day.
Hollidaysburg bounced back after allowing the early Jackson bolt largely on its ability to play takeaway and controlling field position. Jacob Sensenig picked off a pair of deflections, and Day recovered a fumble.
The Tigers took advantage on a gorgeous 20-yard pass and catch from Walters to Trevor Miller and a 35-yard scoring ramble by Keaton Nolan on a short pass in which he stumbled the last 5 yards after eluding several Gateway defenders — Hollidaysburg actually had 12 players on the field on the play, but the officials didn’t see it.
“The players got excited, the fans got excited. Everybody knew we were back in this game,” Miller said. “But then we got down on ourselves after giving up some big plays.
Gateway scored twice in the last 5:08 of the second quarter, although Hilling’s field goal, which just made it over the crossbar after being set up on Jack Sauserman’s 30-yard pass to D.J. Heim on a fake punt, cut the Tigers’ deficit to 28-17 on the last play of the first half. Gateway’s Tui Faumuina-Brown, though, picked off Walters on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter and returned it 37 yards to the Tigers 1.
Gateway’s highly-regarded freshman running back Derrick Davis took it in from there. Then, with 1:10 left in the third quarter, Walker executed a terrific play-fake and found Jackson for a 33-yard scoring strike that boosted the WPIAL champ’s lead to 25 points.
Gateway improved to 13-1. The Gators will play District 3 champion Manheim Central at a site to be announced.
“I think every individual (on our team) believed we were the better team,” Jackson said. “It was just a matter of time before we started to play our football.”
Hollidaysburg hung tough, outscoring the Gators 13-7 in the final quarter and having another drive end on downs at the Gateway 15; both teams kept most of their starters in until the end.
“It’s hard to lock onto those guys because they’ve very athletic and they have very good team speed,” Hollidaysburg coach Homer DeLattre said. “Overall, I was happy with our effort.”
The Tigers managed to accomplish quite a bit this season, bouncing back from three losses to powerful State College, Fort Hill and McDowell to go 7-3 in the regular season and then knock Grove City from the undefeated ranks in the District 6-8-10 championship game.
“We achieved what our goals were for this year,” DeLattre said. “The senior class has been amazing with their effort and their leadership.”
The Tigers will graduate six starters on defense, including the entire secondary of Miller, Sauserman, Day and Dylan Allison. Offensively, DeLattre will need to replace five starters — among them Sauserman, who caught his 14th touchdown pass of the season by taking the ball away from Jackson in the end zone in the final 2 minutes, and Young, who surpassed 1,000 yards in rushing on Saturday. Hilling had 10 field goals in his final season in blue and gold.
Big offensive linemen Josh Dunkle and Ben Burk also will be among the Tiger graduates.
“You just have to be proud of every single guy on the field,” Day said.
A lot of them will be back next season, too. Walters will have a season of more than 2,000 yards of total offense under his belt. Linebacker Gus Dellinger will look to lead the Tigers in tackles for the third year in a row. Big Trevor Mitchell and Sam Haines return on the defensive line, while twins Josh and Nate Howells will be back for a third year starting in the offensive trenches. Nolan had 81 yards receiving against Gateway.
“We were feeling confident in the second quarter,” Day said. “But speed eventually catches up.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Gateway 7 21 14 7 — 49
Hollidaysburg 7 10 0 13 — 30
G–Jackson 78 run (Jenkins kick), 11:07.
H–Miller 20 pass from Walters (Hilling kick), 5:45.
G–Walker 14 run (Jenkins kick), 10:15.
H–Nolan 35 pass from Walters (Hilling kick), 9:55.
G–Jackson 53 pass from Walker (Jenkins kick), 5:08.
G–Thompson 9 pass from Walker (Jenkins kick), 1:17.
H–Hilling 41 FG, 0:00.
G–Davis 1 run (Jenkins kick), 11:10.
G–Jackson 33 pass from Walker (Jenkins kick), 1:10.
H–Young 1 run (pass failed), 9:51.
G–Thomas 1 run (Jenkins kick), 3:09.
H–Sauserman 30 pass from Walters (Hilling kick), 1:43.
RUSHING: Gateway–Jackson 2-86, Davis 14-36, Walker 11-95, Thomas 5-12, Slaughter 0-4, TEAM 3-(-4). Hollidaysburg–Young 25-103, Walters 16-118, Sauserman 1-16, TEAM 1-(-15).
PASSING: Gateway–Walker 23-30-2-367. Hollidaysburg–Walters 10-22-1-162, Sauserman 1-1-0-30.
RECEIVING: Gateway–Jackson 11-225, Josephs 2-14, Thompson 5-40, Davis 3-52, Faumuina-Brown 1-16, Thomas 0-17. Hollidaysburg–Miller 4-38, Nolan 3-81, Sauserman 2-40, Heim 1-30.
INTERCEPTIONS: Gateway–Faumuina-Brown. Hollidaysburg–Sensenig 2.
TEAM STATISTICS G H
First downs 22 19
Rushes-yards 35-229 43-222
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 23-30-2 11-23-1
Yards passing 367 192
Total yards 596 414
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 7-71 7-60
Punts-avg. 1-46.0 4-37.5