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BG defense gets big plays in 4th

In Justin Wheeler’s nine seasons as Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School’s football coach, the play of his team’s defensive units has been the backbone behind the program’s success, including three PIAA Class 1A state championship efforts in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The defense has also been a vital component behind the success of this year’s Marauders team, and it padlocked BG’s 36-17 victory over Juniata Valley in the District 6 Class 1A championship game Friday night at chilly Mansion Park.

In a game in which the momentum changed hands frequently and it appeared as if the last team to score would win, the Marauders’ defense came up with a fourth-quarter play that shifted the direction of the contest squarely in BG’s favor.

After Valley had drawn to within 21-17, the Green Hornets had a second down-and-10 at their own 30-yard line midway through the fourth quarter when BG junior defensive end Andrew Yanoshak forced a turnover that would put the Marauders into the driver’s seat.

Yanoshak blindsided Valley senior quarterback Caden Rupert, causing the ball to come loose, and BG senior defensive end Hayden Fox made the recovery at the Valley 21.

It took BG only five plays to reach the end zone, with junior quarterback Konner Kiesewetter jaunting 4 yards for a touchdown and catching a two-point option pass from senior Sam Homan to give the Marauders a 29-17 cushion with 5:45 left in the game.

BG (11-2) added interceptions from junior defensive back Keegan Myrick and senior linebacker Jack Donoughe later in the quarter to cement its first district championship since 2016 and earn a trip into next weekend’s PIAA Class 1A first-round playoff game against Lackawanna Trail at a site and time to be determined.

“Coach Wheeler said that we needed a big play, and I just wanted to make it and seal it for the team,” said the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Yanoshak, who also starts at tight end on offense. “I avoided their blockers, made a blindside hit, and the ball came out.”

Fox was right on the spot to recover the fumble.

“Our defensive tackle, Cameron Maloney, and I did a special move, with him going outside and me going inside,” Fox said. “I think that caused (Valley) some confusion, and Yano, with his big body, destroyed their quarterback, and I just happened to be right there for the fumble.”

Preparing to throw, Rupert never saw Yanoshak coming.

“I looked downfield, went to check back, and he was right there in my face,” said Rupert, who threw for 168 yards and a touchdown in the game. “What can you do?”

According to Wheeler, the heroics were par for the course for Yanoshak, a two-year, two-way starter.

“Our defense has just played so well all year, and Andrew Yanoshak has been a star,” Wheeler said. “He’s been so good for us this year. You want your best players to make big plays, and he did that for us tonight.”

Valley coach Bill Musser, whose feisty team won last year’s district championship and finished 10-3 this year, also thought the Yanoshak play was pivotal.

“He made a big play,” Musser said. “That was definitely a momentum-changer. We had an opportunity to maybe go down the field and score, but they scored a touchdown right after that play that put us into chase mode.”

It was a chase that would end with the Marauders prevailing, and avenging a 9-3 loss to Valley in last season’s district semifinals.

“All year long, we’ve been relentless up front on defense,” Maloney, a junior and two-year starter on the defensive line, said. “We knew we couldn’t do anything about last year, but we wanted to get revenge against them this year.”

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