If you’re a high school football fan in Western Pa., you’ve probably heard of Aliquippa’s “Trench Dawgs” — the trio of massive linemen (Naquan Crowder, Neco Eberhardt and Jason McBride) who combine to weigh nearly 1,000 pounds for the back-to-back WPIAL Class 4A champion Quips.
Westinghouse can’t quite match that Aliquippa trio in terms of sheer size, but the Bulldogs do boast a beefy unit of their own that is overwhelming even the top Class 2A teams in the state. Led by the dominant senior duo of Donte Taylor and Terel Searcy in the middle, this Westinghouse line deserves as much credit as anyone for bringing the team within one victory of a historic state championship.
“[Taylor and Searcy] are our attitude adjusters,” said Bulldogs coach Donta Green. “They bring the mentality in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Our other guys feed off of what they bring to the table. They’ve played tremendously for us. They took their lumps when they were young, because they both started as sophomores. Now they’re all about trying to dominate everybody they play.”
Westinghouse (14-0) will attempt to capture its first state title against five-time defending champion Southern Columbia (12-3) in the PIAA Class 2A final at Cumberland Valley High School at 1 p.m. Friday. Southern Columbia has won 12 state titles, more than any other school.
In a 26-7 PIAA semifinal win vs. Steel Valley last Friday, Westinghouse racked up more than 200 yards on the ground against the WPIAL’s No. 1-ranked defense. And although the Bulldogs appeared to control the game from start to finish, they actually found themselves trailing in the third quarter, 7-6, before two back-to-back plays that completely shifted the outcome.
First, on Khalil Taylor’s go-ahead 20-yard touchdown run, Donte Taylor (5-11, 295) made a key pancake block on Steel Valley standout Greg Smith (6-5, 315), a future lineman at Miami (Ohio). On the ensuing 2-point conversion, Searcy (6-1, 315) lined up as an up-back in front of quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo, then proceeded to pulverize the defender in front of him as Morsillo waltzed into the end zone behind him, completely untouched.
The linemen don’t have their own nickname at Westinghouse, but Taylor said the entire team shares a nickname instead — “Midnight Dawgs.”
Where’d that name come from?
“Because we practice in the dark,” Donte Taylor said. “No lights.”
No, these Bulldogs aren’t afraid of the dark — they relish in it. It molds them, shapes them into who they are — a hard-hitting, heat-seeking, vicious pack of playmakers who play the game without fear. Taylor and Searcy exemplify that rugged mindset, constantly mauling opposing linemen on both sides of the ball while playing with a relentless motor and an edge that few can match.
“I’m so proud of those two guys,” Green said. “Because when they were sophomores, people told me neither one of them would play high school football. That neither one of them would make it, because they’re not good students.
“They weren’t the best kids growing up, behavior wise. But those guys really bought into the culture and bought into the program and have been tremendous for us.”
They might not have the prototypical height of big-school linemen, or the major-college offers that come with that stature. But in high school football, there aren’t too many linemen regardless of class who can withstand a bull rush or survive a swim move from Taylor or Searcy.
In a way, the two of them embody the nature of Westinghouse football, playing for an inner-city school with very little resources or facilities to speak of, yet somehow making it further than anyone ever would expect.
“I saw Donte when he was 9 years old, and this was when I was an assistant at Westinghouse,” Green said. “He played for the Garfield Gators all the way through. I went to their coach and said, ‘I need that kid.’ I’ve watched him since he was 9, and he’s done nothing but gotten better.
“Terel was part of a national champion midget league program [the Wilkinsburg Hornets]. I knew those guys had the ability they have today. And I have to shout out those midget league programs for developing those kids. I didn’t get them until 10th grade.”
So if you see Morsillo or Khalil Taylor racing past the second level of the Southern Columbia defense Friday without getting a finger laid on them, take a look back toward the line of scrimmage and examine the wreckage. There’s a good chance No. 52 and No. 53 in blue and yellow left a trail of bodies in their wake — and don’t say Donte Taylor didn’t warn you.
“All I’ve got to say is, we’re coming,” he said.