After five district teams punched their tickets to the state finals on Friday night, fans of high school football in Western Pennsylvania had to wait one extra day to see if the WPIAL or City League would be represented in all six state championship games for the first time ever.

North Allegheny made sure it was worth the wait.

Going against District 3 champion Harrisburg (12-2), a state finalist last season, the Tigers jumped out to an early lead and never gave the Cougars any chance to claw their way back, grinding out a 24-12 win in a PIAA Class 6A semifinal at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona. Senior quarterback Logan Kushner delivered another MVP-level performance, rushing for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 26 carries to raise his total to 44 TDs on the year.

North Allegheny (13-1) has now won nine games in a row heading into the main event of next week’s PIAA championships against defending champion St. Joseph’s Prep (12-1), a Philadelphia powerhouse that is playing in the state finals for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons. St. Joe’s is 7-2 all time in state title games, while the Tigers are 3-0 all time but have not played in the state championship since 2012.

“I thought our defense was phenomenal against a very talented team today,” said North Allegheny coach Art Walker. “Making them earn every inch. Making them punt. Holding them down and giving us field position. I think it was a defensive win today.”

As usual, the Tigers’ stalwart offensive and defensive lines won the battle at the line of scrimmage, with seniors Cameron Chmura, Jack Yatchenko and Daniel Sellers dominating in the trenches and making life easy for Kushner and the rest of North Allegheny’s skill players.

“Harrisburg had some big boys, and our guys answered the call on both sides of the ball,” Walker said. “Our D-line played tremendous. … I thought it was a slugfest in there on both sides. You’ve got to give both teams credit. Those kids battled each other all day.”

North Allegheny quarterback Logan Kushner rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns to propel the Tigers to their first state championship appearance in 11 years with a 24-12 win against District 3 champion Harrisburg on Saturday. (Casey Rodak)

Senior Tyree Alualu got the scoring started with an 8-yard TD run with 3:29 left in the first quarter, then Kushner followed with a 1-yard scoring plunge early in the second quarter to make it a 14-0 lead for the Tigers. North Allegheny’s defense continued to swallow up any rushing lanes Harrisburg tried to generate, and heralded Cougars quarterback Shawn Lee had little time to throw against the Tigers’ tenacious pass rush.

North Allegheny kicker Peter Notaro drilled a 42-yard field goal later in the second to stretch the Tigers’ lead to 17-0, and they almost added on another score before getting stopped on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Harrisburg responded with an 82-yard touchdown pass from Lee to Quincy Brannon but couldn’t convert the extra point, leaving North Allegheny in front by a score of 17-6 at the half.

“To hold [Lee] down and frustrate him was huge,” Walker said. “We didn’t throw a ton. But when we got up, it was like, ‘Let’s just play smart, because our defense is playing phenomenal.’”

The Tigers came out of the break and set the tone with another touchdown run by Kushner, this time from 9 yards out, making it a three-score game early in the third quarter. That’s where the score remained until late in the fourth, when the Cougars cut it to 24-12 on another TD pass from Lee to Brannon with 3:45 left. North Allegheny then recovered the ensuing onside kick, and soon, the celebration was on — although not a big one.

After all, the Tigers didn’t come this far to be satisfied with just making it to states, not even against a top-10 nationally ranked foe like St. Joe’s. And why should they be? It has only been two years since Mt. Lebanon beat St. Joe’s in the 2021 PIAA Class 6A final, and this North Allegheny team is equally loaded from top to bottom with size, skill and tons of senior leadership.

Anything is possible, right?

“We’re definitely going to be an underdog,” said Walker, who is seeking his fourth state title as a head coach. “It’s the state championship in Pennsylvania. Our guys are from a community. They’ve got guys who don’t have mailing addresses in PA. There’s a drastic difference. But we believe in each other. We believe in our program. Our kids believe in our coaches.

“We’re going to believe. The people in our community and our school district are going to believe. And when you believe, you’ve got a shot.”

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at