Dunmore (2, 14-1)Written by: Josh Funk on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
The last time we heard from Dunmore in the PIAA finals, it was 2007 and the Bucks were a AA program facing Jeannette, led by future Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Jordan Hall. Both Hall and Pryor scored 30 touchdowns or more for the Jayhawks, who romped, 49-21, over the Bucks. At that time, the Bucks were making District 2’s first state football finals appearance in a decade.
Fast-forward now by a full half decade. Dunmore is back in the state finals, but it’s not the first-in-a-while type of appearance. In Class A, it’s District 2’s second PIAA finals appearance in three years, as fellow Lackawanna Co. program Riverside reached Chocolatetown in 2010.
But in terms of winning gold, the District 2 drought has continued and is in its 15th year. If Dunmore is to end that drought, it has an extremely tall order to do so.
Dunmore (14-1), champions of District 2 and winners of 11 games in a row (which includes an opponent’s forfeit) will face WPIAL powerhouse Clairton, winners of 62 games in a row, for the PIAA A championship Friday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium, with kickoff slated for 1 p.m. Dunmore is looking to become only the second District 2 program with multiple PIAA football titles while Clairton seeks its fourth state title in a row.
Something notable will happen when the Bucks and Bears toe the pigskin and kick off Friday’s state title game. It will mark a pair of 600-game winning programs facing off in the biggest game of the state’s smallest classification. Dunmore has won 618 games in its history and Clairton, who joined the 600-win club this year, has 612 victories. It is believed to be the first time that a pair of 600-win programs have ever met before in a PIAA A title game.
The Bucks’ appearance Friday will mark District 2’s third overall state finals appearance since 2007, which is notable considering the region went without a PIAA finals representative for nearly a full decade, from 1998-2006. District 2’s last PIAA football championship came in 1997, when Berwick rallied from 14 points down to defeat Perry Traditional Academy in Class AAA. Dunmore’s appearance in the 2007 AA and Riverside’s appearance in the 2010 A finals ended with both teams hoisting the silver state runner-up trophy.
History, however, has not been kind to quarterbacks like Dunmore’s Brandon Kujawski. Kujawski is a southpaw, and left-handed quarterbacks own a 4-5 overall record in PIAA championship games. The four quarterbacks who were left-handed who won PIAA football titles were Joey Monaghan (Archbishop Wood, 2011), Anthony Gonzalez (Liberty, 2008), Tyler Palko (West Allegheny, 2001) and Brian Brady (Dallas, 1993). Palko also lost a pair of PIAA finals (1999-2000); Pottsville’s Eric Lurwick (2006), Garnet Valley’s Eric Van Wyk (2007) and Berwick’s Jake Kelchner (1989) account for the five PIAA finals in which a left-handed quarterback was defeated.
Dunmore also marks a recent trend of PIAA finalists who won’t finish the season with 500 points scored or more. At 412 points scored in 15 games, the Bucks join a list of recent PIAA finalists which include both North Penn and Central Dauphin of a season ago, LaSalle’s 2009 and ’10 teams, State College Area’s 2009 edition. None of those recent teams mentioned finished with more than 496 points scored in their respective seasons.
The Bucks’ latest PIAA football finals appearance marks the third of head coach Jack Henzes’ third appearance in the state finals. He won the 1989 PIAA A championship in a 57-18 rout of Keystone. All told, Henzes owns a career record of 371-153-8, claiming six District 2 football championships and an unblemished 3-0 record in PIAA semifinal games. Of the coaches who comprise the 300-win club (there are 11), they have combined for an impressive 41 PIAA championship games, winning 22.
Dunmore doesn’t pass the ball much, but then again, it hasn’t had to with the success of its offensive line and power running game. The Bucks’ 1-2 punch of Daiqwon Buckley and Austin Seamon chewed through Bellwood-Antis’ defense for a combined 387 yards rushing and all six Buck touchdowns. The Dunmore offensive line, anchored by senior Mike Boland, junior James McHale and sophomore Dan Drewes, have fronted a unit which averages 257.7 yards rushing per contest along with 27.5 points per game.
The Bucks’ aforementioned backs, Seamon and Buckley, are the two offensive headliners at the skill positions. Both Seamon, a senior, and Buckley, a junior, have run for more than 1,000 yards this season. The Bucks’ duo is one of 17 such 1,000-yard backfield pairs and 15th such pair to reach a PIAA football final since 2006. In that span, teams with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers are 7-7 overall in state football finals.
Buckley leads Dunmore with 1,755 yards and 23 touchdowns on 197 carries and Seamon adds 1,295 yards and 17 touchdowns on 190 totes. Additionally, Seamon and Buckley have each surpassed the career 3,000-yard rushing plateau. Buckley has 3,707 yards for his career and Seamon 3,066. The duo is the first backfield pair of active career 3,000-yard rushers since Portage Area’s Mike Sinosky and Tommy Burgan in 2009.
Dunmore doesn’t pass much, but Kujawski has been efficient so far, connecting on 41-of-82 passes for 675 yards and 10 touchdowns against two interceptions. But Kujawski hasn’t thrown a pick in Dunmore’s postseason run. Josh Zilla, John Rinaldi and Mike Kolcharno each have 12 receptions or more, and combined, the trio accounts for 41 of the team’s 54 pass receptions and eight touchdowns.
Defensively, the Bucks allow an average of 12.1 points per game, having limited eight of 14 opponents (not including the victory gained by Holy Cross forfeiting) to 12 points or less with two shutouts.
Can Dunmore snap District 2’s state championship drought? Or will Clairton march on to another state championship?
Find out Friday afternoon.
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