Year after year, there are things that can be counted on to happen each fall: leaves changing color, cooler temperatures, shorter days, and Shaler Area football losing to North Allegheny.
For nearly three decades, the Titan football team has played the Tigers without much success. After last Friday’s 41-14 North Allegheny victory, the Tigers have beaten the Titans in 28 of the past 29 meetings.
As the 2003 football season started, North Allegheny had solidified itself as a WPIAL powerhouse, and the fans knew it. The Titans played at North Allegheny that evening as part of NA’s Homecoming events. The Titans bus had to let the players off among a crowd of rowdy North Allegheny fans chanting “1987”; the last time the Titans beat the Tigers.
While the fans expected another win, what they got was a 17-0 Shaler Area win.
In the 03-04 yearbook, the seniors considered the game the “toughest game they won all season,” and the coaches reiterated that claim, as even then head coach Jacque DeMatteo said “history has shown, NA is always a tough game.”
Going into the game, the team was said to be confident and prepared for whatever was to be thrown at them.
“We had a good team that year. We went in really confident, and were trying to get in the playoffs, and we knew that beating NA needed to be done in order to do that,” said former defensive coordinator Dennis Dudley.
As the game progressed, both teams fought back and forth in the first half, and both coming up short of scoring except for a 37-yard field goal from Shaler Area kicker Dante Cincotta which gave the Titans a 3-0 halftime lead.
The next half was a different story. Shaler recovered the opening kickoff after the ball bounced off one of the Tigers. The following play was an 11-yard run from Shaler running back Greg Pfieffer, which was four more yards than Shaler Area’s entire rushing total in the first half.
Two drives later and Shaler quarterback Lou Massimiani found wide receiver Adam Warner for a 22-yard touchdown pass to put the Titans up 10-0.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers offense was still unable to move the ball against the Titan defense. Later in the quarter, Shaler Area running back Steve Brown ran the ball to the 3-yard line, followed by a rushing touchdown from Pfieffer, making the score 17-0.
It was an accomplishment that players and coaches don’t take lightly. Especially considering the fact the Titans have not been able to accomplish that again since that game. There are several possible reasons why.
“It’s probably a number of factors. It’s most likely numbers. Our numbers are down, especially in football. I think at the time [of the 2003 game], it was psychological too. I think to a certain degree our kids would psych themselves out. The moment something would go bad, they would get the ‘Oh, here we go again’ mentality,” Dudley said.
Another factor is that NA has been very good for over the past 10 years. It’s not just the Titans that have trouble dealing with the “University”. NorthAllegheny has posted records above .500 for the past 10 years with a record of 107-32 including back-to-back-to-back WPIAL championships and two state championships.
Losing 28 out of 29 games to the same team obviously grows old, but for a team that recently just broke a 34-game losing streak, the outcome isn’t necessarily the most important thing.
“I got into the business to impact young men’s lives, and teach them values that will help them be successful in life,” LeDonne said.
Maybe sometime soon, the Titans will be successful again versus North Allegheny on the football field.