Steel-High stands in way of BG’s trip to finals
Who: Bishop Guilfoyle at Steelton-Highspire
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Records: Marauders (7-2); Steamrollers (9-0)
Winner gets: Jeanette-Reynolds winner on Friday, Nov. 27, at 11 a.m. in Hershey
Radio: WRTA-AM 1240 and 98.5 FM
The Steelton-Highspire football team uses a Steamroller as its mascot, but the last time the Rollers ran into Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic in the PIAA playoffs, they were the ones that got flattened.
The Marauders defeated Steelton-Highspire, 48-6, on their way to a third-consecutive PIAA championship in 2016 and that performance is still fresh in the minds of coaches within the Rollers’ program.
“Looking at them, I think they’ll be prepared,” Steelton-Highspire coach Andrew Erby said. “With their competition, they see enough good football players that they won’t be overmatched. With their history and their tradition that they will be ready to play football across the board. I don’t think they will treat us any differently. They will be ready to play football.”
The Steamrollers have been living on the edge the past two weeks with a 50-43 win over Muncy and a 39-36 triumph over Old Forge in the PIAA quarterfinals last Friday. Steelton-Highspire won the game on the final play, an Alex Erby to Mehki Flowers touchdown pass.
Flowers, a junior, is widely regarded as a four-star recruit with 21 college offers, including Penn State, Arizona State, Georgia Tech and Cincinnati. He’s listed as a top-20 receiver in the nation among his class.
“They have a ton of skill, and they have a four- or five-star receiver that makes plays every week,” Bishop Guilfoyle coach Justin Wheeler said. “He’s one of the best recruits in the state or across the country, so that will be a challenge because of how much they throw the ball.”
Bishop Guilfoyle senior star Keegan Myrick will likely be matched up with Flowers defensively in addition to his offensive duties. Myrick rushed for four touchdowns, threw for another and caught a two-point conversion pass for the Marauders in last week’s District 6 championship win over Homer-Center.
“Our team is senior-led, so we have the experience,” Myrick said. “But we didn’t even know we’d get this chance or have a season, so anything is extra at this point. We’re definitely looking to get back to where we belong, on top.”
Wheeler is wary of the way Steelton-Highspire is winning close games. He pointed to the Marauders’ close wins last postseason, like an 11-7 triumph over Lackawanna Trail in the PIAA semifinals, as games that helped BG grow.
“It’s similar to our run last year where every game was tight,” Wheeler said. “I think it made us a better football team, so we have to be ready for that. We have had some challenges this season, and our guys have really responded to that. We’ll be prepared.”
Though the Steamrollers like to throw the ball a lot, Erby said it’s important to be balanced against a team like Bishop Guilfoyle.
“We need to try and slow them down defensively and also be efficient on offense,” Erby said. “We can’t be a one-dimensional team, but they have some really good football players across the board that will make that tough.”
Saturday’s game will be hosted by the Steamrollers thanks to a PIAA decision to allow the team on the top of the state playoff brackets to host games if their stadium is suitable due to some neutral sites being unavailable due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Home field advantage is definitely huge,” Wheeler said. “We’ll be traveling two hours in the morning to play the game, but we still have an opportunity. So, it didn’t matter if we were driving to there or to Chambersburg like we did the last time we played them. We still have to travel and once the game gets started, I don’t think we’ll care where we are at. We’ll just be happy to be playing.”
Erby said his team’s state playoff wins the past few weeks have been important for the program but that it’s unlikely any of the momentum will carry over into Saturday’s game.
“We have a lot of young players, and I think it will benefit them in the long run,” Erby said. “But Bishop Guilfoyle is a different type of opponent. They are a very tough challenge and a very well-coached football team. We’ll have our hands full.”
Meanwhile, the Marauders are still working on hitting their peak. They missed a pair of extra points in the District 6 final, and Wheeler said those are the type of things that need to be cleaned up.
“To play for a state championship, you have to be at the top level in every aspect of the game, including special teams,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to focus on everything this week and try to make everything a little bit better, and hopefully it leads to the right outcome.”