WEST MIFFLIN, Pennsylvania – Westinghouse knew that its football team was playing in the biggest game in program history on Friday night against Steel Valley in the PIAA 2A Semifinals.
With a state championship appearance on the line, the Bulldogs were the underdogs heading into the game with the idea that the school had never played in a state title game.
With senior quarterbacks squaring off against one another in Keyshawn Morsillo of Westinghouse and Cruce Brookins of Steel Valley, it was Morsillo who made more of the bigger plays and was the ultimate reason the Bulldogs defeated the Ironmen 26-7.
The last time a City League team played in a state championship game was in 1997 when Perry lost to Berwick.
“It means the world to me (to advance to the state championship) because no one believed in us,” Morsillo said. “No one ever thinks that a City League team can compete with a WPIAL team, and we changed the narrative.”
The turning point of the game actually came on an interception thrown by Morsillo, however.
Early in the fourth quarter with Westinghouse leading 14-7, the Bulldogs were driving but a Morsillo pass was batted up in the air and intercepted by Steel Valley’s Makhai Valentine. But Valentine fumbled on the return and Westinghouse recovered the ball.
Morsillo took advantage of his second chance by rushing for his second touchdown of the game to give the Bulldogs a 20-7 lead with 7:55 in the fourth quarter.
He ran for 55 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 8-of-19 passes for 133 yards. He threw three interceptions, but they did’t bother the senior.
“The three interceptions didn’t really faze me because two of them were tipped and one was just a toss-up at the end of the first half,” Morsillo said. “But we need to improve on not playing down to our opponent and starting faster than we did.”
Keyshawn Robinson rushed for a touchdown late in the game for the final score.
The Bulldogs couldn’t get any going offense in the first quarter, but the defense was able to make stops to build back the offense’s confidence.
The only scoring play in the entire first half was at the 6:33 mark of the second quarter when Morsillo rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead at halftime.
The only score for Steel Valley came after Westinghouse fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, giving the Ironmen the ball at the 6-yard-line.
Brookins ran for a touchdown on the ensuing drive to give the Ironmen a 7-6 lead, their only one of the game.
In Steel Valley’s previous game, Brookins ran for 170 yards and scored three touchdowns in a win over Beaver Falls in the WPIAL 2A Championship win over Beaver Falls. But Westinghouse didn’t feel much pressure and just remained focused on stopping Brookins, who rushed for 36 yards on 21 carries, and the rest of the Ironmen that only accumulated 133 yards of offense in the game.
“We remained focused on the game. We knew that a lot of people were going to be there from both teams, and it was going to be crazy, so we stayed away from social media,” Westinghouse’s Deshaun Blackwell said. “All we needed to do was play our game and we were going to be fine, and that’s what happened.”
Khalil Taylor rushed for a 20-yard touchdown with 36 seconds left in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs were able to convert on the 2-point attempt right after to receive the lead back at 14-7.
Southern Columbia will be a tough task for Westinghouse, as the Tigers will be looking to win its sixth consecutive state title. But the Bulldogs know what they have to do to beat Southern Columbia and will stick to their game plan.
“As the year went on, we continued to execute and helped each other week by week working harder than the week before and keeping high energy and laser focus on the game plan, the coaches put together,” Blackwell said. “And at the end of the day, we all have one goal, and that is to win the state championship. We are not going to let anyone get in the way.”
Westinghouse head coach Donta Green is taking his alma mater to a state title game for the first time ever. With all the hard work the coach has done behind the scenes, his quarterback not only wants to win a state championship for himself, the team, and the school, but for coach Green as well.
“Man, he’s just the heart and soul of the program, be brought Westinghouse back to life,” Morsillo said. “He’s the G.O.A.T. He’s teaching us how to be young men and he’s changing the narrative of the program as a whole.”