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GATEWAY’S GOLDEN: Gators win Foothills Conference title in Thursday night thriller

Written by: on Friday, October 24th, 2008


MONROEVILLE, Pa. – There’s a saying that says the great teams are the ones that overcome adversity.

The Gateway Gators, a consensus #1 “AAAA” team, and ranked 4th in the nation, were holding on to a 31-27 lead with 2:23 left in its regular season finale with McKeesport.  All the black and gold needed was a stop on a critical 4th-and-13.

And when push came to shove, Gateway got the defensive stop it needed.

Chris Lammie sacked McKeesport quarterback Ty-Meer Brown on fourth down, and then Brian Williams salted the game away with a big first down run as Gateway (9-0) completed its regular season unblemished with a thrilling 31-27 victory for the Foothills Conference title against McKeesport (7-2) from Antimarino Stadium in Monroeville.

Gators’ head coach Terry Smith summed up the game perfectly.

“We dominated the first half – did just about anything we wanted to do, offensively and defensively,” he said.  “Then the second half was a complete reversal.”

The Gator scored the first 28 points of the game, and did so with a very lethal passing attack, keyed by junior quarterback Rob Kalkstein.

Ahead 7-0, Gateway went on a nine play, 59 yard, 3:48 drive, capped by a Kalkstein-to-Corey Brown 12-yard touchdown pass.

Just two minutes and 15 seconds later, Gateway pushed the lead to 21-0 when Kalkstein hooked up with Brown again, this time on a 36-yard strike.  It was Brown’s 13th touchdown reception of the season.

To close its first half scoring, Gateway reached into its bag of tricks.  Kalkstein (11-of-22, 149 yards, 2 TD) tossed a lateral to Jeff Parrish, who, in the same motion, lofted a strike to Josh Vermeulen for a 49-yard touchdown pass.

Gateway finished the opening 24 minutes with 14 first downs, 231 yards of offense, and a commanding 28-7 lead, with McKeesport’s lone score coming on a Ty-Meer Brown three-yard run with 1:12 left in the half.

Defensively, the Gators limited McKeesport’s flexbone offense to just 105 yards and eight first downs.

Tigers’ boss George Smith was anything but pleased.

“We played a first half (that was) not focused at all,” the 187-game winner said.  “The kids read the press clippings and they think they’re better than they are.

“It’s like they asked me on FSN, ‘Are you going to throw the ball?’ No, I’m not gonna throw the ball.”

But McKeesport entered the second half a changed football team, and took their opening drive of the second half right down the field.  Six plays and 44 yards later, Nico Price rumbled in from a yard out, and the defecit was cut to just 28-13.

Ryan Lichtenstein kicked a 26-yard field goal to widen the margin to 31-13 Gateway, but Brown darted around the right side of the McKeesport line for a 13-yard scoring run.  Brown’s successful two-point conversion run made it a 31-21 game.

Brown’s 13-yard run capped a three-play, 80-yard drive which consumed just 63 seconds of game clock.  Sam Gooden had a key 53 yard run on the drive.

“They dominated the second half,” Terry Smith said.  “They had us second-guessing some things on defense.  We didn’t quite know where that ball was going, and they dominated the second half.”

When Brown’s 10-yard scoring run, his third of the game, cut Gateway’s lead to 31-27 at 7:44 left in the game, all the Gators needed was to string some first downs together.

Gateway, starting from its own 41, was aided by a Tiger personal foul penalty, and Brian Williams had three carries for 13 yards on the drive, but a Kalkstein pass was dropped on 4th-and-4 from the McKeesport 30, and the red and blue were in business.

Fullback Nico Price and Brown combined for three first downs in as many plays, but a costly personal foul penalty negated the McKeesport momentum. 

That’s when Lammie’s critical fourth-down sack of Brown occurred, and Gateway ran out the final 2:15 of game clock to preserve the victory and their perfect season.

“We did it at Erie, and we did it tonight,” Terry Smith said.  “When we needed plays, we’ve gotten those plays.”

Brian Williams ran for 102 yards and a touchdown and added 56 kick return yards for the Gators.  Dorian Bell finished with 21 yards on eight carries and a game-high 13 tackles on defense.  Corey Brown caught five passes for 67 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the 2008 Foothills Conference champions.

Ty-Meer Brown led McKeesport with 136 total yards of offense, of which 113 were rushing yards.  Price finished with 85 yards on 17 carries and a score.

The Tigers, as a team, ran for 298 yards and attempted only two passes the entire game.  However, despite the 20-point comeback, McKeesport committed three personal foul penalties on the night and finished the game with nine penalties for 70 yards.

NOTE:  Both Gateway and McKeesport have qualified for the WPIAL playoffs, which begin next weekend.  Gateway, with the win, more than likely wrapped up the #1 overall seed, and will play a home game in the first round.

McKeesport finished as the Foothills’ second-place team.  Conventional thinking would mean that the Tigers would get one of the top eight seeds in the 16-team bracket, which would also mean McKeesport gets a home playoff game next week.

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