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Selinsgrove forces eight University Prep turnovers to advance in PIAA playoffs

Written by: on Saturday, November 24th, 2012

ALTOONA, Pa. – As a small band of reporters meandered away from Selinsgrove head football coach Dave Hess, the Seals’ ringleader made one small, simple request.

“Hey guys,” Hess said, smiling. “Just make me look smart. Please. That’s all I ask.”

Truth be told, Hess had already earned straight As for his power-running game plan which helped Selinsgrove win its first PIAA playoff game since 2009.

Selinsgrove (10-3) bulled its way to a 325-yard rushing effort and forced eight turnovers on defense in a 41-14 rout of University Prep (7-4) Saturday afternoon in a PIAA Class AAA playoff game from Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona.

With the victory, Selinsgrove will take on District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic, a 23-0 winner over Abington Heights, which victory Saturday marked the Seals’ first PIAA playoff victory since the 2009 PIAA AAA championship game and also the program’s first 10-win season since 2009.

Looking at the score and knowing the Seals forced eight turnovers, it would be hard for some to believe that University Prep made it challenging for Selinsgrove. Yet the runners-up of the Pittsburgh City League did exactly that.

“We didn’t have any film exchange,” explained senior Mike Walter. “We had to go to Clearfield to get game film of them (University Prep). That fired us up.”

Walter played especially inspired ball, crashing through University Prep’s defense to the tune of 151 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 21 carries and also playing linebacker on a defense which limited a high-flying Panther passing attack to a 19-of-45 day while forcing seven interceptions.

Seven – spread out amongst five Selinsgrove defenders. Tyler Krebs and Logan Benner each had a pair of picks while Hunter Kantz, Austin Benner and Zach Adams posted one pick apiece.

“That’s a great day for us,” Hess said. “I seriously lost count of how many interceptions we had because we were getting so many. But that’s because we have lots of kids around the ball.”

“Their strength was our weakness,” said University Prep head coach Lou Berry.

The game did not end in a mercy rule, but Selinsgrove was far from merciful with the punishing running style of Walter and fullback Connor Leisenfeld. The duo accounted for all six Selinsgrove touchdowns for the game – Walter scored four on runs of 15, 4, 1 and 29 yards and Leisenfeld added the others on runs of 2 and 1 yard.

“We’ve been blessed with two fullbacks who are really big, power guys,” Hess said.

Walter hadn’t seen any time in his career as a ball carrier until this season, and it was his first career four-touchdown game.

“It’s my senior year and this very well could have been my final game,” Walter said. “We’ve got a reputation (in the state playoffs) and alumni always telling us to continue to carry it on.”

Walter raised his season rushing totals to 577 yards and a team-leading 13 touchdowns. Leisenfeld added 93 yards and raised his season rushing yardage total to 217 with four touchdowns.

“I’m so proud of my teammates,” Walter said. “Our line played awesome.”

On the opposite sideline, Berry was disappointed to see the career of first-year varsity starter and senior quarterback Akil Young come to an end. University Prep had won its first two PIAA playoff games in school history, over Somerset and Clearfield Area, and Young finished the Panthers’ postseason run with 1,005 yards passing and 12 touchdowns.

“He will be difficult to replace,” Berry said of Young.

Marcus Johnson’s 61-yard punt return for a touchdown brought University Prep to within 14-8 of the District 4 champion Seals, but that was as close as they’d get the rest of the way. Selinsgrove rattled off 21 consecutive points before University Prep scored in the fourth quarter on a 28-yard touchdown pass.

In the end, Selinsgrove simply overpowered its counterpart from District 8.

“They were stacking nine men in the box,” Hess said. “It came down to fundamental football.”

NOTES: University Prep is a program in its second year of existence and has won 18 games against six losses in that span………Selinsgrove freshman back Juvon Batts was limited to 51 yards rushing on 12 carries, but played sparingly following a late hit out of bounds by the Panthers’ Myles Catlin in the first half. Batts has rushed for 912 yards on the season……..Selinsgrove attempted only five passes, and completed one, for one yard……..University Prep is 0-2 all-time at Mansion Park Stadium. The Panthers fell to State College, 33-32, last season…….The two teams combined for 19 penalties – the Panthers had 12 for 90 yards and the Seals seven for 45.

University Prep 0 8 0 6 – 14
Selinsgrove 14 7 7 13 – 0

1st Qtr
SEL – Mike Walter 15 run (Kaelen Sullivan kick)
SEL – Connor Leisenfeld 2 run (Sullivan kick)
2nd Qtr
UP – Marcus Johnson 61 punt return (Michael Wright pass from Ryan Daniels)
SEL – Walter 4 run (Sullivan kick)
3rd Qtr
SEL – Walter 1 run (Sullivan kick)
4th Qtr
SEL – Walter 29 run (Sullivan kick)
UP – Clay Moorefield 28 pass from Akil Young (pass failed)
SEL – Leisenfeld 1 run (kick failed)

Rushes-yds 16-48 65-325
Passing 19-45-7 1-5-0
Passing yds 192 1
Total offense 240 326
1st downs 14 18
Penalties 12-90 7-45
Turnovers 8 1

Individual statistics

RUSHING: UP: Abner Roberts 7-42; Marcus Johnson 2-18; Ryan Daniels 2-6; Akil Young 4-minus-4. SEL: Mike Walter 21-151 4 TD; Connor Leisenfeld 20-93 2 TD; Juvon Batts 12-51; Mike Adams 9-43; Isaiah Rapp 3-minus-3.

PASSING: UP: Young 19-45-7-192 TD. SEL: Rapp 1-5-0-1.

RECEIVING: UP: Marcus Johnson 6-62; Clay Moorefield 5-41 TD; Roberts 3-44; Michael Wright 2-18; Myles Catlin 2-17; Noah Stewart 1-9.  SEL: Dylan Beaver 1-1.

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