Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rematches Waste Little Time Both Matchups Feature Opponents That Must Regroup

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rematches Waste Little Time Both Matchups Feature Opponents That Must Regroup

Article excerpt

Going through the handshake line Oct. 21, McKeesport coach Matt Miller told Gateway counterpart Don Holl they might meet again soon.

Sure enough, he was right. After the McKeesport-Gateway matchup went missing for two seasons, it's back on in a major way. Three weeks after Miller's Tigers topped Holl's Gators at home, it's time for a rematch in the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals. Winner plays for a championship, loser puts away the jerseys. What a year to reignite the rivalry, right?

"These kids get real excited for this game," said Miller, in his first year taking over for McKeesport legend George Smith. "I was actually surprised. I didn't hear much about it in practice the week before we played them the first time, but man, when they came in, there was a buzz. They were more excited about playing Gateway than I think any team throughout the season."

As this bunch of Tigers grew up, McKeesport and Gateway went back and forth for supremacy in the Class AAAA Foothills Conference. But the past two seasons, Gateway dropped to Class AAA, pausing the series for the first time in 10 years.

Realignment rekindled it, putting both teams in the newly formed Class 5A's Big East Conference, and even before this season, Tigers lineman and Syracuse recruit Curtis Harper fingered Gateway as one of his school's top rivals. In 11 meetings since 2004, Gateway is 6-5, but No. 3 seed McKeesport (8-2) has the most recent bragging rights with its 34-19 win at home that forced the seventh-seeded Gators (7-4) to sweat out a playoff berth.

"The good news is I think our kids know some things about them, maybe things we could've done better," said Holl, also in his first year at Gateway.

"Bad news is it's a really good opponent and it's going to be a challenge no matter how much you prepare for them."

Sure, Gateway had three turnovers and allowed 305 rushing yards in that regular-season loss, but the Gators led, 13-0, early in the second quarter before the Tigers stormed back. Gateway totaled 338 yards of offense despite a constant downpour, and even Miller thinks he hasn't seen everything the Gators aerial attack can throw at him.

"It's great to have the rivalry back, but it's definitely not the team you might want to play right now," Miller said. "I mean, they're very, very hot. They're tough, they're fast, they're physical, but it does make for exciting football."

Perhaps nobody is on more of a hot streak than Gateway junior Brady Walker, who threw for 464 yards in last week's 38-20 upset of No. 2 seed Armstrong. That's the fourth most in WPIAL history, but for what one quarterback does with his arm, McKeesport senior Jayvaun Shears might be able to answer with his feet. Shears rushed for a career-high 182 yards last week in a 31-10 rout of Upper St. …

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