Late in the second half of a 34-6 revenge-game blowout win vs. Farrell in Saturday’s PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal, the jam-packed fans on the home side of the stands at George K. Cupples Stadium serenaded the Westinghouse sideline with their favorite chant — you know the one.
“There’s a house, up on the hill, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”
The song is normally about Westinghouse High School in Homewood, AKA “The House.” This time, though, the “house” they were referring to may have been West Mifflin High School instead.
That’s where the undefeated City League champion Bulldogs will square off with undefeated WPIAL champion Steel Valley at 7 p.m. Friday in a historic PIAA Class 2A semifinal showdown. The Ironmen are fresh off a 34-14 win against Beaver Falls Friday at Acrisure Stadium and boast the highest-scoring offense in the WPIAL at 44 points per game. The only team in the area with a higher-scoring offense? Westinghouse (13-0) at 45.5 ppg.
Oh, and if it’s defense you prefer? Steel Valley (12-0) ranks first in the area at 7.9 ppg allowed. The Bulldogs are third at 8.2 ppg.
“They were everything that I thought they would be,” Ironmen coach Ray Braszo said after attending Westinghouse’s beatdown against Farrell on Saturday. “They’re a very good football team. A lot of speed. They’ve got a huge offensive line. I saw them a little bit in the summertime at camps and how fast and athletic they could be.
“They’re a lot like us, I guess.”
It can’t be overstated just how rare a matchup like this is. In fact, it truly is the first of its kind.
Several times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, City League champion Perry collided with the WPIAL Class 3A champion for a spot in the state title game. Three times, the Commodores clashed with West Allegheny — in 1997, 1999 and 2001. Perry won the first meeting before losing to Berwick, 17-14, in the PIAA title game, then the Indians won the next two. The most recent matchup of this kind and perhaps the most talked about came in 2002, when the last of Perry’s legendary “Blue Steel” defenses faced off with Hopewell and star running-back linebacker Paul Posluszny.
That Commodores entered with a 13-0 record and had won all 13 games by shutout while outscoring their foes, 689-0. But Hopewell controlled the game from start to finish en route to a 20-3 win before going on to capture the Class 3A state title the following week.
And although those were all memorable games, none of those champ vs. champ matchups featured two undefeated teams. That’s what fans will be treated to Friday night at West Mifflin, where somebody’s “0” will have to go.
“It’s kind of crazy, the way all of this worked out,” Braszo said. “I remember years ago when Perry was always there. Perry was always good and always in the state playoffs. There’s good football [in the City League], even though there are less teams now than there used to be.”
On paper, this appears to be about as even a matchup as fans could ask for. At the forefront of each team’s offensive attack are two of the top senior quarterbacks in the area — Cruce Brookins for the Ironmen and Keyshawn Morsillo for the Bulldogs.
Fresh off his three-touchdown performance with 170 rushing yards in a 34-14 win vs. Beaver Falls in the WPIAL title game, Brookins is now up to 1,624 yards rushing and 34 touchdowns to go with 711 yards passing and seven TDs through the air. Morsillo threw for 155 yards and ran for 52 more with a pair of passing TDs in the PIAA quarterfinal win against Farrell, giving him 46 total touchdowns on the year (34 passing, 12 rushing).
“It’s my senior year. I’m trying to go out with a bang,” Morsillo said. “These are the best moments of my life right now.”
Both teams also feature speedy running backs who are coming on stronger as the year goes on. Steel Valley sophomore Donald Barksdale ran for 86 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries against Beaver Falls on Friday, while Westinghouse senior Khalil Taylor rushed 16 times for 109 yards and two scores vs. Farrell on Saturday.
And of course, neither team would be here without the stellar play of their offensive and defensive lines. Both teams have proven capable of bullying opponents at the line of scrimmage with a blend of size, strength and tenacity not often seen at the Class 2A level.
The Bulldogs have several key figures on the line, with senior Donte Taylor (5-11, 295) making an especially strong impression during this year’s playoff run. Senior Terel Searcy (6-1, 315) and junior Sincere Shannon (6-2, 260) are also causing plenty of havoc up front.
For the Ironmen, senior lineman Greg Smith (6-5, 315) is considered one of the most imposing figures in the WPIAL at any classification. The Miami (Ohio) recruit towers over his competition and paves wide-open running lanes for Brookins, Barksdale and the rest of Steel Valley’s ball carriers.
“I’m sure [we’ll be counted out again]. But we’re used to it,” said Westinghouse coach Donta Green. “They’re a tough team, or they wouldn’t be in this game.”
With so much at stake for a monumental matchup 20 years in the making, both coaches are doing everything in their power to maintain focus on the task ahead and treat it as just another game. But don’t think for a second the significance of Friday’s showdown will be lost on Green, Braszo or any of the players who take the field.
For the Bulldogs, who are already in uncharted territory in the PIAA semifinals, one more win would make them only the third City League team ever to play for a state title and the first in 25 years. Perry won a Class 3A state title in 1989 and lost in the 1997 state finals.
“We’re excited about the challenge,” Green said. “We’re not going to overcomplicate it. We’ll just take it one day at a time, keep winning each day, and we’ll see what happens on Friday.”