ALEXANDRIA - D.J. Kitt had to pause during a postgame interview to acknowledge a pair smiling faces vying for his attention.
"Those are my nieces," Kitt said sheepishly.
The two little girls were about the only thing that slowed Kitt down on Saturday night.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
BG’s Brandon Chadbourn dives between JV’s Ian Hawn and Brett Grissinger (9).
Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School football coach Justin Wheeler didn't use Kitt often in the Marauders' District 6 Class A quarterfinal game, but he got a lot of mileage out of the 5-foot-9, 185-pound sophomore. Typifying BG's night, Kitt had two long runs on his three carries, one for a touchdown, the other to set up a TD, as Guilfoyle emerged with a 31-14 victory over host Juniata Valley on a chilly, sometimes foggy evening at A.R. Simkins Memorial Field.
Both teams left the field 9-2, but the Marauders advance to play at top-seeded Bellwood-Antis in the semis on Friday.
Kitt had 98 yards on just three carries. He burst 44 yards up the middle for a score on the first play from scrimmage. Then, after Juniata Valley opened the second half with a long drive to pull within three at 17-14, Kitt bolted 49 yards on the Marauders' first snap of the second half down to the Green Hornet 30; Cody Rossman plunged in from the 1 eight plays later.
"D.J.'s a great back, and he's had a good year. He's had a few injuries but he's healthy. He's a big-game player," Wheeler said of Kitt.
Kitt only had 247 yards on 49 carries entering the game, but Wheeler told him in advance that he was going to get the ball on the first play. Juniata Valley misread BG's shift, and Kitt ran right through the opening and into the end zone after Cody Rossman returned the opening kickoff to the Valley 44.
"I knew the offensive line would block for me. Running behind our fullback, Cody Rossman, I just found the hole and went with it," Kitt said. "We came in fired up to win this game."
Guilfoyle was playing its first playoff game since 2009, so getting off to a good start may have helped take the edge off.
"When you come into an environment like this, with as many fans as they have and this atmosphere, for us to get that first score and get our crowd going while quieting theirs was absolutely huge," Wheeler said.
The Marauders rushed for 270 yards, most of it coming in chunks. Rossman had a key 45-yard gallop that opened the door for a score in the last half-minute of the first half, Pat Irwin delivered a beautiful fake and kept on the option for a 32-yard touchdown run 10 seconds into the fourth quarter, and Sam McCloskey and Brandon Chadbourn tossed in runs of 31 and 23 yards, respectively.
"The line is the strength of our team, and we have speed at the backs," Kitt said.
Valley actually recovered from Kitt's touchdown run, tied it on Jesse Claar's 1-yard run and had BG on its heels for much of the first half. It looked like the Hornets were going to take the lead when sure-handed Devin Low got behind the BG secondary late in the second quarter, but he couldn't make the grab. Guilfoyle then took advantage of Rossman's long run and a late hit penalty when Irwin found Damon Rickens on a 5-yard slant pass in the end zone with 20 seconds left in the second quarter for a 17-7 advantage.
"That really did hurt getting that going into halftime, because, if we had that touchdown pass, we would have led 14-10 going into the half, and that would have been huge," Juniata Valley coach Mike Smith said. "But it ended up swinging the other way."
Although Taylor and Low connected on a 30-yard touchdown pass later, Valley had to play from behind. Smith was pulling out all the stops, going for it on fourth-and-7 near midfield to start the game and getting a quick pass to Brett Grissinger for 39 yards, paving the way for Claar's score.
"I have a lot of confidence in our offense. I just have a lot of confidence that we can make those. We've [converted] a lot of fourth downs this year," Smith said.
BG, though, was able to contain Valley just enough, limiting a Hornet rushing attack that averaged more than 300 yards to 107. Taylor threw for 154, and Grissinger had 113 combined rushing and receiving.
"We worked all week on their run game, and our front four played well," Wheeler said. "With the kind of team that they have and the speed that they have, we knew they were going to get some, but we wanted to hang in there and do a good job, and we did."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Guilfoyle7 10 7 7 - 31
Juniata Valley7 0 7 0 - 14
BG-Kitt 44 run (Logue kick), 11:43.
JV-Je. Claar 1 run (Staber kick), 7:53.
BG-Logue 20 FG, 3:48.
BG-Rickens 5 pass from Irwin (Logue kick), 0:20.
JV-Low 30 pass from Taylor (Staber kick), 7:47.
BG-Rossman 1 run (Logue kick), 4:03.
BG-Irwin 32 run (Logue kick), 11:50.
RUSHING: Bishop Guilfoyle-Kitt 3-98, Rossman 12-65, Chadbourn 5-49, Irwin 10-45, McCloskey 5-26, TEAM 2-(-3). Juniata Valley-Grissinger 13-40, Taylor 11-39, Je. Claar 12-27, Wagner 1-1.
PASSING: Bishop Guilfoyle-Irwin 3-6-1-27, Chadbourn 0-1-0-0. Juniata Valley-Taylor 8-18-1-154, Grissinger 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: Bishop Guilfoyle-Rickens 3-27. Juniata Valley-Grissinger 4-73, Low 2-65, Gardner 2-16.
INTERCEPTIONS: Bishop Guilfoyle-Irwin. Juniata Valley-Low.