One year and six days ago, Westinghouse coach Donta Green stood in front of his players and delivered a passionate speech after a season-ending 24-7 loss vs. Farrell at George K. Cupples Stadium on the South Side.
The message focused on using the loss as a means to learn and grow mentally; to mature, come back stronger and grow closer together; and to never forget the feeling in the pit of their stomachs.
The Bulldogs certainly took the message to heart, responding with a 12-0 start and their third City League championship in four years. Still, some still wondered if a City League team could really stand up to a four-time PIAA champion powerhouse like Farrell — even one as dominant as Westinghouse has been all season.
Consider the answer a resounding yes.
The Bulldogs bullied and battered the District 10 champion Steelers in Saturday’s highly anticipated rematch at Cupples Stadium, keeping their perfect season alive with a 34-6 beatdown and now going where no Westinghouse team has ever gone before — to the state semifinals.
This time, Green stood proudly and smiled while addressing his players at the same spot on the same field where they had their hearts broken a year ago.
“I just mentioned that this morning, that it’s been 53 weeks,” Green said. “I just told them, we had to sleep with that for 53 weeks, and it’s time for us to finally get an opportunity to fix that wrong.”
In last year’s meeting, the Bulldogs held a surprising 7-6 lead in the third quarter before Farrell took over and dominated down the stretch. But there’s something different about this year’s Westinghouse team — a certain belief that nothing can stop them from reaching their ultimate goal. And once the Bulldogs took control of this game, they never looked back.
Senior quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo is the engine that makes the high-powered Bulldogs offense go, and he delivered another masterful performance on Saturday. Morsillo completed 7 of 13 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 52 yards on seven carries and committing zero turnovers. He is up to 34 passing touchdowns with 12 rushing scores on the year.
“It feels great, because they got us last year,” Morsillo said. “I’m just so happy right now.”
Senior running back Khalil Taylor rushed 16 times for 109 yards and a pair of TDs, giving him 16 scores on the year. That ties him for the team lead with senior receiver Sincere Smith, who caught one of Morsillo’s touchdowns on Saturday.
“It feels like we’ve got something to prove, and we’re going to keep working every single week,” Taylor said. “We know what we’re about. We’ve just got to show everyone else.”
As great as Westinghouse’s offensive stars were though, the defense deserves even more credit. Led by senior Donte Taylor and junior Michael Richardson, the Bulldogs’ defensive line wreaked havoc on Farrell quarterback Kabron Smith and the Steelers’ running backs. Farrell seemed to sorely miss star senior Kylon Wilson, who was suspended after being ejected the previous week.
“[Donte Taylor] played at a really high level,” Green said. “I’m so proud of him and the growth he’s made over the years.”
Westinghouse (13-0) couldn’t have asked for a better start, with its defense forcing a three-and-out and Taylor following with a touchdown run on the offense’s opening drive. The Steelers responded, however, as Kabron Smith ran for a 3-yard TD, but a missed extra point kept the Bulldogs in the lead — and that was as close as Farrell would get.
Taylor capped off Westinghouse’s next drive with his second touchdown run, giving the Bulldogs a 14-6 first-quarter lead. Morsillo then connected with Sincere Smith for a 16-yard TD pass to make it 20-6 at the break.
Twice, the Steelers (10-2) started drives with the ball at the Westinghouse 29-yard line in the third quarter, and both times, the Bulldogs defense came up with a huge stop to keep Farrell off the board. Morsillo then hit Davon Jones for a 43-yard TD strike on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the rout was on. Roderick Jeter’s 4-yard TD plunge put the finishing touches on the 34-6 win.
Steelers coach Anthony Pegues came away thoroughly impressed by the Bulldogs, and the chippy, physical nature of the contest didn’t stop him from handing out a hefty compliment afterward.
“Give them credit, they’re a very good team,” Pegues said. “I think they’re going to be the [Class] 2A state champions.”
Westinghouse enters uncharted territory as the first City League team to reach the state semifinals since Perry in 2002. Its opponent is the undefeated WPIAL Class 2A champion Steel Valley Ironmen, who lead the WPIAL in scoring offense (44 ppg) and defense (7.9 ppg). The teams will face off at West Mifflin at 7 p.m. Friday, with the winner earning a berth in the PIAA Class 2A championship game Dec. 9 at Cumberland Valley High School.
“I want them to view us as the underdog, but I want our respect,” Morsillo said. “We came from nothing and nobody believed in us. … I’m just happy because we’re making history while we’re doing all this. Westinghouse never made it this far.”