With the WPIAL Class 2A championship tied, Beaver Falls senior running back Da’Talian Beauford took a handoff up the middle at the Steel Valley 22. 

Steel Valley senior Joe Ketterman poked the ball out, and junior Rasaun Hough caught it and returned it 78 yards for the go-ahead score. 

In years past, that moment might’ve sunk the Tigers (9-5). Not this year. Not this team. 

Beaver Falls, the No. 10 seed, rallied to claim its sixth WPIAL title, edging No. 1 Steel Valley, 14-12, Friday at Acrisure Stadium.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Beaver Falls coach Nick Nardone said. “They have been doing it all year. This team has been through so much on the field and off the field. 

“These kids are battle-tested. … These kids, even in the games we lost, never quit fighting. That helped them persevere today.”

Case in point — Beauford never let his head hang after the costly turnover. 

“After I fumbled, my teammates told me, ‘It’s not over, we’ve been through this before,’” Beauford recalled. “They picked me up, and I came out and did what I had to do.”

On the ensuing possession, Beauford carried the ball six times for 17 yards. The Tigers twice reached fourth down on the drive, but both times senior quarterback Kadin Brickner found senior receiver Da’Sean Anderson for first downs.

Beauford punched it in from 4 yards to tie the score at 12-12.

Beaver Falls players celebrate after defeating Steel Valley, 14-12, to win the WPIAL Class 2A championship Friday at Acrisure Stadium. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Nardone sent out the extra-point group, but Donovan Jeter, who graduated from Beaver Falls in 2017 and spent time with the Steelers and other NFL teams before joining the Tigers staff, had something to say to Nardone. 

“I have to give a little credit to Donovan Jeter for getting in my face and saying we are going for 2,” Nardone recounted. “I said you are 100% right. I put the offense back out there. Because they got us down the field. They had been moving the ball. Shouldn’t have even been a consideration the way the offense was playing. I’m glad he was right there. Sometimes things happen for a reason.”

Brickner handed the ball off to Beauford, and he did the rest on the 2-point try, again atoning for the earlier fumble. Beaver Falls took its first lead of the game, 14-12, with 44 seconds remaining in the game. 

Fourth downs were a trend Friday for the Tigers. They converted 4 of 6 in the game, including on their first touchdown drive. 

“Their corner was off,” Anderson said. “I knew it was fourth down, so I said this is the best shot to throw up a 50-50 ball, fourth down in the red zone. I said, ‘Coach, let me do it,’ and he had trust in me. My quarterback also had faith in me, he threw it up there to where only I could grab it. I knew when I was in the air, the next thing I had to do was get the foot down. That’s what I did.”

Anderson finished with five catches for 51 yards and that touchdown. Beauford totaled 105 yards on 29 carries and the winning touchdown. 

Steel Valley’s Rasaun Hough reaches out to grab the ball after it was stripped from Beaver Falls running back Da’talian Beauford in the fourth quarter of the WPIAL Class 2A championship game at Acrisure Stadium on Friday. Hough returned the ball 78 yards for a touchdown that put his team ahead, although Beaver Falls won the game, 14-12. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Steel Valley’s lone offensive touchdown came from the motor of its offense, junior running back Donald Barksdale. Barksdale finished with 96 yards on 24 carries. 

“Our defense played great, our offense just couldn’t get going,” Steel Valley coach Ray Braszo said. “Couldn’t get Donald loose. He’s always been a big part of our offense. Have to give them credit, they moved the ball a little bit better than we did.”

Since Acrisure Stadium opened in 2001, five teams have reached the WPIAL final as a double-digit seed. Beaver Falls made it 5-0 for those teams. 

Beaver Falls also won WPIAL titles in 1928, 1960, 1984, 2016 and 2020. It reached the final for the fourth year in a row. 

This one certainly wasn’t easy.

“When you get a team playing the right kind of football at the right time in the season, rankings don’t matter,” Nardone said. “Yes, we had our lumps along the way, but this team started jelling and becoming a true team right when that first round of the playoffs started. We told these guys, when they figure it out, there’s nobody that can beat them.”

Nardone had a feeling coming into the game: “This week of preparation, we knew these guys were ready. We knew they were hungry. We knew they were going to come out and win, as long as we didn’t beat ourselves.”

Beauford made sure that didn’t happen. 

“I knew once I scored that I had to get the 2 for the team,” he said. “My coach has been relying on me a lot. I appreciate that. He gave me the ball. He put the game in my hands. I had to get in.”

Steel Valley, the defending champion, finished 10-2.

Saul works in sports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at saulbt2009@gmail.com.

Saul Berrios-Thomas

Saul works in sports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at saulbt2009@gmail.com.