Defense wins championships … especially when there’s a player like senior Charlie Meehleib at the center of it.
Meehleib, a Bucknell recruit, scored two defensive touchdowns Friday night to help Elizabeth Forward advance to the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals next week against Avonworth.
“That is every kid’s dream, getting a fumble in the end zone and taking back a pick-six,” Meehleib said.
The Warriors added a third defensive touchdown from senior Dominic DeRenzo and totaled five turnovers to move past West Mifflin, 42-21, in a quarterfinal matchup at Elizabeth Forward.
“That’s a great football team,” Elizabeth Forward coach John DeMarco said of West Mifflin. “They have some big boys up front. They got to us a little bit, but we made some adjustments and made some plays when we needed to make them. Our kids fight, they’ve fought all year long. Their resiliency is unbelievable.”
DeRenzo got the party started with a 79-yard fumble recovery early in the first quarter.
The Warriors (10-1) went into the half up, 21-7. All night diminutive dynamo Charlie Nigut made big plays, so, obviously, the Titans (7-5) didn’t want to kick to the junior. To open the second half, they kicked it to the other side and junior Andrew Grese. Grese made the house call.
“We changed our kickoff,” DeMarco said. “They were starting to bloop it a little bit, so we changed our kickoff at halftime. And he took it to the house.”
Many might have changed the channel there, but West Mifflin was ready to fight for its playoff life.
West Mifflin freshman Armand Hill responded with a touchdown, his second of the night, to trim the Elizabeth Forward lead to 28-14. On the ensuing possession a costly interception gave West Mifflin the ball with good field position.
Hill, who ran for 197 yards in the game, once again hauled the ball down the field. He was then spelled by DelRon White, who punched it in from 7 yards out to cut Elizabeth Forward’s lead to single digits for the first time since the first quarter.
Nigut once again motored the Elizabeth Forward offense, carrying the ball for several plays in a row. He found the end zone on a 14-yard run to put the Warriors back up two scores, 35-21. Nigut finished the night with 22 carries for 170 yards and two scores.
To erase any doubt, Meehleib came up with his second touchdown of the night, picking off West Mifflin senior quarterback Joseph Fleming and rolling through Titans for 47 yards and into the end zone.
“He always makes plays,” DeMarco said of his stud defensive lineman. “Charlie is a warrior.”