Just after the clock struck triple zeros early Friday afternoon, Tanner Garry was the recipient of a cold Gatorade shower.

For Garry and Fort Cherry, it was the cherry on top in what now is the biggest win in program history.

Matt Sieg was his usual sensational self, accounting for 344 yards of offense and four touchdowns while leading No. 2-seeded Fort Cherry to its first WPIAL title courtesy of a 42-28 win against No. 1 South Side in a battle of unbeaten teams at Acrisure Stadium.

“It’s unreal,” said Sieg, a sophomore quarterback-defensive back. “Just to be able to do this for this community. After last week, we knew we had to get it done for them. I don’t even think it’s set in. Obviously, there’s happiness, but it’s crazy.”

It might have been Black Friday, but on the North Shore it was all about the team donning the white jerseys with red trim. This was a historic win for Fort Cherry (14-0), particularly for Garry and his family, who are immersed in the program perhaps more than any other family of coaches in the WPIAL. The school’s stadium is named after Tanner’s grandfather, Jim, who in 44 seasons as head coach was never able to get his hands on a WPIAL title. Tanner’s father, Tim, coached the team for nine seasons and is one of six Garrys on Tanner’s staff.

Tanner Garry, who is in his fourth season, was emotional afterward when asked if his grandfather would be proud of the team’s accomplishment.

“He would be proud,” said Garry, a ball boy on the 2001 Fort Cherry team that lost to Rochester in the WPIAL final. “He’s someone I was on the sidelines with for those games and I grew up around the program with him. Just me as a kid knowing the elusive one he had a chance to get a couple times. To be able to do it now, especially with this group of kids, a special group that have done nothing but be coachable and react to adversity. It’s definitely about them.”

South Side’s Carter Wilson attempts to tackle Fort Cherry’s Matt Sieg in the WPIAL Class 1A football championship Friday at Acrisure Stadium. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

As he has done all season, Sieg fueled Fort Cherry’s charge by doing a lot of everything. Sieg rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries, completed 9-of-16 passes for 166 yards, intercepted a pass, and even boomed a 51-yard punt.

Sieg, who now has accounted for 58 touchdowns on the season, scored on runs of 3 and 4 yards and hooked up with Shane Cornali on touchdown passes of 35 and 22 yards.

“He doesn’t need much [space],” South Side coach Luke Travelpiece said. “He alone makes you defend the entire field. He’s able to get up in there and push it for 2 or 3 yards and then he’s able to get a sweep, and they’ve had a lot of success on the sweep. He’s just so fast. He gets out on the edge very quickly. It’s a great scheme by them that stretches you on both sides horizontally and then they are able to take advantage of stuff vertically. Having to defend the whole field is tough. Matt’s a good player and he stretches you for sure.”

South Side (13-1) fell short of winning its first title since 1999 and third overall. The Rams entered the game Friday having beaten all of their opponents this season by at least 16 points, but a sloppy start saw them lose a fumble on their first offensive play. Garry called it a “tone-setter.” Fort Cherry’s Nashaun Sutton recovered the ball at the South Side 47, and, 10 plays later, Sieg put the Rangers on the board courtesy of his 3-yard touchdown run.

But South Side bounced back quickly, with the Rams taking a 14-6 lead after touchdown runs by Brody Almashy (1 yard) and AC Corfield (3 yards). Sieg then found Cornali for a 35-yard score, and Sieg followed with a 2-point run to knot the score at 14-14 with 8:24 left in the first half.

Fort Cherry then began a late first-half surge that would propel the Rangers to the win. The Rangers used some razzle-dazzle to take the lead, as Cornali took a wide receiver reverse and tossed it to Ethan Faletto for a 7-yard touchdown with 2:27 remaining.

“That’s the first time we’ve used it and scored,” Garry said. “It’s been a crucial 2-point conversion play for us in the past.”

Fort Cherry players celebrate their win against South Side in the WPIAL Class 1A football championship Friday at Acrisure Stadium. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

After South Side turned it over on downs at the Fort Cherry 36 with 1:01 left, Sieg quickly drove the Rangers down the field. On third-and-3 with the clock winding down, Sieg threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Cornali to give the Rangers a 28-14 lead with just three seconds to go.

Sieg added to the Fort Cherry lead when his 4-yard touchdown run made it 35-14 with 7:29 left in the third. Later in the quarter, Almashy scored his second touchdown of the game on a 25-yard run that sliced the Fort Cherry lead to two touchdowns. Faletto scored on a 3-yard run in the fourth for Fort Cherry, while South Side closed the scoring on Almashy’s 45-yard touchdown strike to Carter Wilson with 6:03 remaining.

Behind its wing-T offense, South Side came into the game Friday with more than 3,000 yards rushing this season. The Rams weren’t too far off of their season average, running for 257 yards on 31 carries. Almashy ran for 113 yards, Corfield 98 and Ryan Navarra 46. Almashy, though, finished just 2-of-10 passing for 50 yards.

For “The Fort” and “Ranger Nation” — of which there were many in attendance at Acrisure Stadium — Friday was a day that will live on for a long time.

“It’s a lot of emotion,” Garry said. “We’re happy to be able to say we’re bringing one home to The Fort for the first time in school history. It’s a special moment.”

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.