Shaler Stops Canon-McMillan

Article excerpt

The official box score will read "Shaler: Dan Wirkowski 1-yard run" with 24 seconds left in the first half.

It also could read, "Game over."

No. 7 Shaler used a 16-play, 97-yard drive late in the first half to catapult itself to a 28-13 manhandling of No. 10 Canon-McMillan in a Quad-A non-conference game Friday night at Titan Stadium.

"That was the whole game," Wirkowski said. "That was the whole comeback. They just collapsed after that."

Wirkowski's touchdown gave Shaler (4-0) a slim, 14-13 lead into the locker room, but the damage -- at least mentally and emotionally -- was done.

Shaler, off to its best start since 2000, pushed around Canon- McMillan (2-2) in the second half, putting together another 13- play, 80-yard drive in the third quarter for a 21-13 lead.

Canon-McMillan's five possessions in the second half ended with punt, punt, fumble, turnover on downs and interception.

Shaler limited Canon-McMillan's Michael Hull, the leading rusher in the WPIAL Class AAAA at 175.6 yards per game, to 22 yards on 12 carries

Wirkowski carried 18 times for 67 yards and two touchdowns and intercepted a pass in the final minute. Shaler quarterback R.J. Palso completed 7-of-9 passes for 81 yards and carried 11 times for 31 yards.

The game-changing drive started after Canon-McMillan quarterback Zane Zebrasky misfired on a fourth-and-goal from the Shaler 3 midway through the second quarter. Instead of being down by 13 points, Shaler took over at its own 3.

Sixteen plays later, the Titans took the lead for good.

"The drive was phenomenal," Palso said.

Canon-McMillan coach Guy Montecalvo knew his team was in trouble after the missed fourth-and-goal. The Big Macs had settled for field goals when two earlier first-half drives stalled deep in Shaler territory.

"What's the difference in the game going to be there if it's 20- 7," Montecalvo said. "High school football is all emotion and momentum swings. These are young kids. I knew when that happened that we were probably in trouble, and they weren't even up in the game. ... You don't win that way."

The Shaler offensive line -- tackles Joe Tappe and Garrett Smith, guards Rick Musgrave and Chris Abt and center Ryan Budziszewski -- dominated. …