September 25, 2015 became a date that will be remembered throughout Shaler Area, as the football team broke its infamous 34-game losing streak by beating Butler, 30-20.
The scoring started off early in the first, with junior quarterback Jack Quinn throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior Killian Bozzo. Butler answered with a touchdown with three minutes left in the first, but the extra point attempt was blocked.
Shaler returned with a scoring drive in the early second which ended with a one yard touchdown run from Jack Quinn, but the extra point was blocked. Later in this quarter, Shaler kicker Anthony Friel crushed a 49-yard field goal, making the score 16-6.
After pushing Butler back on their 11-yard line on the following drive, senior Anthony Zelina wrapped up the ball carrier, forced a fumble which was recovered by Bozzo and returned for a touchdown. Friel’s extra point was good.
Butler rallied once again, driving the ball down the field and ending the drive with an 18-yard rushing touchdown, but failing on the extra point making the score 23-12 going into halftime.
“At halftime Coach LeDonne told us that it takes two full halves to win a football game. He also told us to keep working hard and not to ease up, because if we did ease up we could have lost that game,” senior running back Jake Hartman said.
Butler did not make it easy in the second half. The Golden Tornado scored a touchdown late in the third and added a successful two point conversion to shrink the Titan lead to three points, 23-20.
The Titans sealed the win with a 58-yard touchdown run from senior Jeremy Barnhart. After Friel’s successful extra point, the score was 30-20.
“We played well; everybody executed everything that needed done. Every play, the eleven men on the field completed their job, and that’s why we came out with a win,” Hartman said.
For the football program this was very significant for both the coaches and players.
“This win was very important for the program. The players are starting to trust what we are telling them. Having three different head coaches over a varsity career is very tough, but the players are starting to believe,” head coach Jon LeDonne said.
With the first win in 34 games, not only was the football program elated, but the community of Shaler Area in its entirety was celebrating the win.
“To see the hard work, dedication, and discipline finally pay off was a gratifying experience. It was awesome to see the Shaler Area community as a whole celebrate together,” LeDonne said.
Not only was this the first win the team had in over three years, but it was Coach LeDonne’s first win ever as a head coach.
“Getting my first win as a head coach was an awesome experience. I got into the business to impact young men’s lives, and teach them values that will help them be successful in life,” said LeDonne.
But of course, the team is not yet satisfied with just this one win, as practice resumed for the team the following morning.
“The next step is to keep improving each day. We will take one day at a time and focus on the little things. The overall goal is to make the program successful, increasing participation, and becoming a regular in the WPIAL playoffs,” LeDonne said.
While the playoffs may have been a dream just a few weeks ago, they are closer to reality now. Just two weeks after beating Butler the Titans won their second game by beating Fox Chapel 14-9.
The Titans were able to pull off the victory without starting quarterback Quinn and leading wide receiver Nick Fugh who both were sidelined with shoulder injuries.
Hartman scored both Titan touchdowns, one on a 25-yard screen pass and the other on 9-yard run. Senior WR Killian Bozzo had five receptions for 121 yards. Both Hartman and Bozzo contributed on defense as well as they both had an interception.
With the win, the Titans have put themselves in a position where it is possible for them to make the playoffs depending on the outcome of upcoming home games against North Hills and Seneca Valley.