The Cranberry Eagle
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Article published September 12, 2012

Thorn or rose?
Seneca Valley looks to end long losing streak against NA

Derek Pyda
Butler Eagle

JACKSON TWP — For the better part of a decade, one team has proven to be a thorn in the side of the Seneca Valley football team: North Allegheny.

The Raiders last defeated NA in 2002. Last season, the Tigers beat them twice, the second time by a 35-10 count that ended SV’s season in the WPIAL Quad A quarterfinals. The Tigers went on to win their second straight WPIAL title.
After opening this season with two straight conference wins, the Raiders are primed to give their rivals their best shot.
The teams will meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday at NA’s Newman Stadium. It will be Seneca’s first road test of 2012.
One of the tasks on the shoulders of SV coach Don Holl this week is to prepare his players for a huge game, but also get them to keep the big picture in mind.
“Someone once asked (former Buffalo Bills coach) Marv Levy for his thoughts on an upcoming must-win game,” Holl said. “He responded, ‘This isn’t a must win. World War II was a must win.’
“We don’t have any problems getting our kids excited for this game,” Holl added. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere and we sure would like to knock these guys off, but each section game is important and we have four left after this one.”
Seneca (2-0, 2-0) ran away with a 50-26 victory over Pine-Richland last week, while NA crushed Fox Chapel 48-7.
The Raiders’ success on third downs is a big reason why the team has put up 74 points in its first two games.
Last Friday, Seneca’s offense converted all four of its third-down attempts in the first half.
Included was a 33-yard pass from Jordan Brown to wideout Paul Hudanick on a third-and-10. On the team’s next drive, Brown connected with Erick Lee for 37 yards on a third-and-5. Both drives resulted in a touchdown.
“There are certain statistics you look at as being very important and third-down efficiency is one of them,” Holl said. “We’ve done well on third downs in both of our games. It’s big, it allows you to keep a drive going.”
The Raiders introduced a wrinkle against Pine-Richland that will force all of their remaining opponents to think twice when sending their extra-point unit on the field.
After two of its touchdowns, Seneca lined up as if it were going to kick the extra point. But holder Mike Jones passed to Carson Kessler for a two-point conversion and later ran one in himself.
“We plan for it, but then it becomes a check situation,” said Holl. “If we line up and the opponent isn’t prepared to cover it, we go ahead with the two-point attempt. If they are looking for it, we just kick it.”
Sophomore running back/linebacker Mason Dehart turned in a key play on both sides of the ball against the Rams.
In the first quarter, he capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive with a touchdown reception that put the Raiders up 15-0.
After the Rams had cut Seneca’s lead to 29-19, Dehart intercepted a pass early in the third quarter, setting the tone for a frustrating half for Pine-Richland’s offense.
“He’s a talented player,” said Holl. “His play on both sides of the ball has shown us that we can count on him.”
North Allegheny returns key cogs from its 2011 season, which ended with an overall record of 14-1.
Senior quarterback Mack Leftwich has passed for 602 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions this year. He threw for 2,223 yards and 20 touchdowns and added 933 rushing yards and 16 more scores as a junior.
Alex DeCiantis gained 839 rushing yards and found paydirt 14 times last year.
In a Week 1 win over Mount Lebanon, wideout Gregg Garrity caught seven passes for 116 yards and one touchdown.
Making the Tigers even more dangerous is that they have one of the top-ranked offensive tackles in the country. Left tackle Pat Kugler (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) is a University of Michigan recruit.