When Pine-Richland fell into a 14-0 hole vs. Cathedral Prep in the first half of their PIAA Class 5A quarterfinal clash, the Rams could have easily packed it in and called it a season.
They had already rebounded from a 1-3 start to win nine consecutive games and a WPIAL title, and they would have no reason to hang their heads in shame if their season came to an end against the Ramblers on Friday. But this Pine-Richland team doesn’t just thrive off adversity — the Rams stare it right in the face and laugh.
Pine-Richland picked itself up off the canvas and responded with a few big body blows of its own before senior quarterback Ryan Palmieri delivered the knockout punch late in the fourth quarter, capping off a lengthy drive with a go-ahead 8-yard touchdown run to lift the Rams to a 21-14 comeback win.
“He threw two [touchdown] passes, one to Brad Gelly and one to Luke Rudolph, and then he ran one in with about two minutes left in the game. It was something like a 15- or 16-play drive,” said Pine-Richland coach Jon LeDonne. “We welcomed them to Western Pa. football.”
LeDonne admitted that Cathedral Prep’s exceptional speed gave his team a bit of trouble early on, but once the Rams adjusted and settled in on defense, it was all Pine-Richland from the second quarter on.
“We were just out of position on two plays they capitalized on, and we just got that corrected and talked about doing our job,” LeDonne said.
Palmieri is now up to 28 total touchdowns on the year, with six coming through the air and 22 on the ground.
“We preached all year — up against adversity, backs on the wall, how are you going to respond?” LeDonne said. “We just had to get some nerves out of our system for some of our younger guys.”
Class 6A quarterfinal
Unlike their neighboring rival Pine-Richland, North Allegheny was not able to muster up a second-half comeback after falling into an early hole vs. State College in its PIAA quarterfinal matchup.
Coming off a 35-21 win against Central Catholic in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game, the Tigers fell flat in a 28-7, season-ending defeat on Friday. North Allegheny fell behind, 21-0, before scoring its first and only touchdown of the game on a 3-yard TD run by quarterback Logan Kushner late in the first half.
Kushner passed for 181 yards, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Tigers’ hopes of a state title alive. North Allegheny finishes the season 11-2 overall after winning its first WPIAL title in 10 years.