There are those who said this day would never come.
What are they to say now?
For the first time in 25 years, the City League will be represented at the PIAA football championships, as Westinghouse defeated Steel Valley, 26-7, in a historic clash of unbeaten champions Friday night at West Mifflin High School. The PIAA Class 2A semifinal showdown of City League vs. WPIAL was the first of its kind, and it did not disappoint the thousands of fans who witnessed one of the area’s most anticipated high school football games in recent memory.
The game was close for most of the first three quarters, as both defenses took turns forcing turnovers and making huge fourth-down stops while delivering punishing hits. But Westinghouse’s size and speed took over, and the Bulldogs bullied the Ironmen in the fourth quarter to leave no doubt who the better team was.
“I told my guys at halftime that nobody outside of this room thought it would be possible,” said Westinghouse coach Donta Green. “Since Jan. 4, that’s what we talked about. We said, ‘states or bust.’ Because we knew what a talented group we had, and we knew the growth we had made over the years.
“We knew that we would be here.”
Senior running back Khalil Taylor was a man on a mission for the Bulldogs (14-0), consistently racking up tough yardage while getting stronger as the game went on. He finished with 128 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
His stat line might not reflect it, but Westinghouse quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo did everything his team needed him to do to win. He completed 9 of 20 passes for 141 yards with three interceptions while rushing for 52 yards and a pair of scores on 15 carries.
“I believed that we were able to do it, but we just needed the right tools, the right mindset and the right motivation to get there,” Morsillo said. “We changed the narrative today.”
The task was much tougher for Morsillo’s counterpart, Steel Valley star senior Cruce Brookins. The Kent State recruit came down with an impressive interception on defense late in the first half, but he and the Ironmen (12-1) couldn’t get anything going on offense. Brookins finished 6 of 14 passing for 71 yards and ran for 33 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. He was sacked four times.
“They just beat us up front,” said Steel Valley coach Ray Braszo. “They’re a big, fast team. … Our defense kept us in the game for most of it. We just couldn’t get anything consistent going on offense.”
The first play from scrimmage featured a 43-yard completion from Brookins to Antonio Bray, which turned out to be the only play of 15-plus yards the Bulldogs’ ferocious defense allowed.
Westinghouse got on the board first on Morsillo’s 4-yard TD run midway through the second quarter, and the Bulldogs took a 6-0 lead into the break. But a Westinghouse fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half gave the Ironmen a golden opportunity to take the lead, and they made the most of it. Brookins delivered with a 6-yard TD run on the next play to put Steel Valley ahead, 7-6.
Desperately in need of a spark in the third quarter while starting a drive at their own 2-yard line, Morsillo ignited the Bulldogs offense with a 22-yard run followed by a pair of big completions over the middle. Taylor then capped off the six-play, 98-yard scoring drive with a 20-yard TD run to give Westinghouse a 14-7 lead it would never relinquish.
“Everybody doubts us every single week,” Taylor said. “We just keep proving everybody wrong, but we’re proving ourselves right at the same time.”
The biggest play of the game came with a wild momentum swing early in the fourth quarter after Makhai Valentine intercepted a fourth-down pass by Morsillo. As Valentine was returning the ball across the field, Bulldogs receiver Sincere Smith laid down a massive hit from behind on Valentine, who never saw him coming. The tackle forced a fumble that Westinghouse recovered, and Morsillo punched in a 1-yard run for his second TD of the game shortly after.
The Bulldogs added one more late touchdown run, polishing off a 26-7 beatdown that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.
“[Smith] made probably the play of the day right there. That really changed the tone,” Morsillo said. “He bailed me out right there.”
For some perspective, the City League went 18 years from 2003-20 without even having a team qualify for the state playoffs. Westinghouse won a subregional championship to end that streak last year, but then lost to Farrell in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. This year, the Bulldogs have left a trail of destruction in their wake as they get set to compete for the ultimate prize. And in order to become only the second state champion from the City League, they’ll need to take down the mightiest dynasty of them all when they face five-time defending state champion Southern Columbia at Cumberland Valley High School at 1 p.m. Friday.
Of course, nobody outside the Westinghouse locker room expected the Bulldogs to make it this far, so they don’t mind if they’re counted out. It would certainly go down as one of the greatest state championship upsets of all-time, but don’t be surprised if “The House” shocks the world one more time.
And what better way to close out a once-in-a-lifetime season than with the ultimate “David vs. Goliath” showdown?
“We wouldn’t want it any other way,” Green said.