MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

Westinghouse hasn’t done much losing in recent years, but the Bulldogs learned that lesson the hard way Friday at Cumberland Valley High School. Regardless of the final score, though, one thing is certain — these Westinghouse Bulldogs are champions for life.

Facing off with mighty District 4 powerhouse Southern Columbia in a historic state championship rematch, Westinghouse came about as close as you possibly can to winning a state title without actually winning one. After falling into a 14-point hole only three minutes into the game, the Bulldogs (13-1) rallied to tie the score at halftime and held a six-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Westinghouse had the Tigers pinned deep at their 1, but Southern Columbia engineered a 12-play, 99-yard scoring drive to take the lead in the final minute en route to an unforgettable 21-20 victory in the PIAA Class 2A championship.

Many expected an instant classic, and this colossal clash more than lived up to that hype.

“Our kids fought hard, and I’m proud of them for the work they put in, from January all the way until now,” Bulldogs coach Donta Green said. “Hopefully it’s a learning experience for our guys. … It’s only a loss if you don’t learn something from it.”

For the Tigers (15-1), it’s their seventh consecutive state title and No. 14 overall for the premier football dynasty in Pennsylvania. This was by far the closest game of their 14 state championship victories, having won each of their previous 13 titles by 15 points or more. Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth has been at the helm for all 14 of the Tigers’ state titles, and his remarkable career record now stands at 499-67-2.

Westinghouse’s Khalil Green ran for 116 yards and a touchdown and passed for 205 yards and two scores in a 21-20 loss to Southern Columbia Friday in the PIAA Class 2A championship at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Union Progress).

Junior quarterback Khalil Green did everything he could to propel his team to victory, completing 10-of-16 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. It’s his first loss since taking over for record-setting passer Keyshawn Morsillo as the starting quarterback, but it’s clear that Westinghouse is in good hands with Green returning to lead the charge next season.

“It’s what we expected,” Donta Green said. “That kid is dynamite. He’s an amazing kid. We knew that he was ready for the big moment.”

The Bulldogs appeared to have the game and the state title within their grasp after a strip sack by sophomore Josiah Collins on fourth-and-18 with less than two minutes remaining. The Westinghouse sideline and bleachers erupted, believing they were about to become the second City League team to win a state title. But a defensive holding penalty gave Southern Columbia new life, and the Tigers took advantage with an 11-yard completion from Blake Wise to Kyle Christman on fourth-and-8.

Southern Columbia’s Kyle Christman pulls in a pass for a fourth-down conversion in front of Westinghouse’s Lloyd Penn near the end of the PIAA Class 2A championship Friday at Cumberland Valley High School. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Union Progress).

Three plays later, Southern Columbia was in the end zone after a 12-yard touchdown run by Carter Madden. The ensuing extra point gave the Tigers a 21-20 lead with 42 seconds remaining, and the Bulldogs were unable to muster a rally on their final drive, as Jacob Hoy intercepted Green’s desperation heave on the final play to spark a raucous celebration for Southern Columbia.

On the other side, Westinghouse coaches and players looked on in shock and disbelief while accepting their PIAA runner-up trophy for the second year in a row. Donta Green implored his players to gather themselves and walk off the field with pride and dignity, and they all followed suit, making no excuses and refusing to blame the officials for the defeat.

“Regardless if I agree with it or not, it happened. The call was made,” Donta Green said. “It’s just time for us to move on.”

Playing with a broken rib sustained Oct. 28 in the City League championship, senior captain Taymir O’Neal left it all on the field in his final high school game for the Bulldogs. O’Neal hauled in four passes for 75 yards and a touchdown and caught a 2-point conversion, plus he came down with a key interception and delivered a few monster hits on defense. He will graduate as the leader of the most successful senior class in school history, with the Bulldogs capturing three City League titles, making three state playoff appearances and reaching back-to-back state finals while compiling a record of 44-4 over the past four years.

While processing the heartache in the aftermath of the devastating defeat, O’Neal took the time to reflect on his stellar high school career and the memories that will last a lifetime.

“It felt great to do it with my brothers,” O’Neal said. “I wish we could have gotten the win, but it’s just life. Adversity comes with life, and we’ve just got to learn how to battle it.

“I really think it was just God giving me a test of who I am.”

The game couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for Westinghouse, which fell behind, 7-0, after an 83-yard touchdown run by Louden Murphy on the second play of the game. On the ensuing drive, Isaac Carter intercepted a screen pass and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown to make it a 14-0 Tigers lead just three minutes into the contest.

Never a team to back down, the Bulldogs began battling back after Green connected with O’Neal for a 10-yard touchdown on the following possession. Green then ran in a 5-yard touchdown late in the first half, and O’Neal caught the game-tying 2-point conversion to make it a 14-14 score going into the break.

Westinghouse’s Taymir O’Neal pulls in a pass for a touchdown against Southern Columbia in the PIAA Class 2A championship Friday at Cumberland Valley High School. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Union Progress).

In the third quarter, Green delivered a perfect deep ball to freshman K’Shawn Hawkins for a go-ahead 49-yard touchdown, but Green came up short on the 2-point conversion attempt, keeping Southern Columbia within six points. Westinghouse’s defense kept making big plays to keep the Tigers off the board, but the Bulldogs were unable to add onto their lead, and they couldn’t get the stop they needed most on Southern Columbia’s final drive.

That left the door open for the Tigers’ go-ahead score on a 12-yard run by Madden, capping an incredible 99-yard drive to lift Southern Columbia to its seventh consecutive state title.

Although the Tigers won this round, don’t think for a second this rivalry is over. Westinghouse is loaded with young talent ready to break out in the future, and although the Bulldogs will sorely miss O’Neal and the rest of their seniors, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone to see them back in this position again next year.

With a truly exceptional coach such as Donta Green leading the way, anything is possible.

“Other than my mom dukes and my pops, Coach Donta is like a father figure,” O’Neal said. “I just love him. Words can’t even explain who is to me. I just love him, man.”

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