2017 PIAA Class 5A Title Game Preview: Gateway (7) 14-1
Written by: Billy Splain on Thursday, December 7th, 2017
Class 5A State Championship Friday, December 8, 7:00 PM at Hersheypark Stadium.
How they got here:
Off all the great teams that have come through the doors of the Gateway Gators locker room, and there have been many great Gator teams, none have made it to Hershey. Hard to believe. And when you look at Gateways schedule, it make it even harder to believe. Of their 14 wins, 6 of them came against teams that at one point or another were in the WesternPAFootball.net Rankings, including a mid season loss to then #1 ranked Penn Trafford, followed up by a win to former #1 Mckeesport, then Franklin Regional. They followed up with their second win over Woodland Hills, then McKeesport again, and finally toppling again #1 Penn Trafford. In my book, that’s a heck of a gauntlet.
Led by quarterback Brady Walker, who has thrown for a whopping 4,400 yards and 43 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions, the Gator offense is a quick strike machine. And most of those strikes go to junior receiver Courtney Jackson, who’s hauled in 1900 of those yards and 23 tds. As the passing game goes, so do the Gators on offence. But their run game has some danger too. Derrick Davis and Jaquan Thomas are speedy but also a threat to catch the ball up the middle. Defensively the Gators are a team unit that fly to the ball and don’t make many mistakes.
What would it mean for Gateway to win the game:
It would be huge. It’s difficult to win a state championship, there are so many great teams in Pennsylvania. Winning the game would mean that we can forever claim we were the best 5A team in 2017. Our community has a lot of pride as far as this team goes and that would be pretty neat to reward them for that with the championship
What was your teams defining moment this year:
I can’t just pinpoint one moment. There were a lot of moments of resiliency winning some close games in our league this year.
Keys to winning the game on offense:
We just have to keep doing what we do and who we are. It’s a bit cliche’ but I’ve always felt week to week we have to stay true to who we are. We have to find the match ups that favor our style and at the end of the day it’s can we do what we do better than they do what they do.
Keys to winning the game on defense:
Same thing, we’re not gonna invent a new front or test a new coverage. We’ve got an aggressive group and can run to the play.
Here’s a breakdown of Gateway’s projected starters in the Class 5A PIAA State Championship game with coaches quotes:
LT – #62 Zac Storch, Sr. or #59 Jalen Chavis, So.
LG – #55 Canaan Cleveland, Sr.
C – #54 Amir Wahid, Jr.
RG – #52 Tomi Woodson, Jr.
RT – #50 Nate Slaughter, Sr.
We have some tough kids. We’re not the biggest but they’ll play with good technique and they’ll battle. It’s how hard can they play for 4-6 seconds.
WR – #23 Brandan Cain, Sr.
WR – #4 Travis Thompson, Sr.
WR – #9 Courtney Jackson, Jr.
TE – #15 Tui Faumuina-Brown, So.
Courtney is gonna be a guy we find ways to get the ball to. The expectation is if we do a good job of getting him the ball then he’ll produce. Brown, he does a number of things, a big target and dependable guy. He’s a good player who stepped up mid season.
RB – #8 Derrick Davis, Fr.
RB – #13 Jaquan Thomas, So.
Derrick, we need him to do the things he does what he does in the run game and the pass game as well as blocking. He’s special.
QB – #18 Brady Walker, Sr.
He’s a focal point of everything we do. It’s no secret by design that how he goes is how we go.
DE – #55 Canaan Cleveland, Sr.
NT – #52 Tomi Woodson, Jr.
DE – #26 Kelvon Nelson, Fr. or #16 Justin Works, Sr.
Woodson, Clevelan and Nelson are three guys that are big strong guys. They can rush the passer and they’ve been a mainstay of our defense.
OLB – #8 Derrick Davis, Fr. or #21 Jerell Thomas, Jr.
ILB – #37 Jay Johnson, So.
ILB – #10 Jordan Stancovich, So.
OLB – #15 Tui Faumina-Brown, So.
Stancovich and Johnson are guys that have a nose for the ball. They have good game sense and we hope they’ll make a lot of plays for us.
CB – #9 Courtney Jackson, Jr.
CB – #4 Travis Thompson, Sr.
SS – #2 Jeremiah Josephs, Jr.
FS – #12 Brendan Majocha, Jr.
Jeremiah is a ballhawk, as good tackler with great instincts. He’s just a great point A to point B guy that clears up a lot of plays for us.
Kicker – #22 Jayson Jenkins, Fr.
He’s the guy who, we practice situational field goals every week. But we had a lot of confidence with him for that game circumstance to win the game for us.
Punter – #18 Brady Walker, Sr. or #21 Jerell Thomas, Jr.
Long Snapper – #61 Nick Alexander, Sr.
Holder – #3 Santino Comunale, So.
Returners – #9 Courtney Jackson, Jr., #2 Jeremiah Josephs, Jr., #8 Derrick Davis, Fr.
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