It’s a championship season for Shenango.
The Wildcats wrapped up a share of the WPIAL Class A Big Seven Conference title Friday night with a 45-21 win over OLSH at Glenn “Pop” Johnston Stadium.
“It feels great,” Shenango sophomore running back C.J. Miller said.
It marks the program’s first conference title since it captured the 2003 WPIAL Class 2A Tri-County North crown. In addition, this victory secured a WPIAL playoff berth — the program’s first since 2016.
“It is awesome,” Shenango junior quarterback Tino Campoli said. “After me coming back from an injury and for us to have this type of season, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
While the Wildcats (6-0) enjoyed their third game with Campoli back under center, they face the possibility of their first without Reis Watkins in the backfield. The senior running back racked up 134 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries before hobbling to the sideline after being tackled with 9:15 left in the second quarter. Watkins, who entered the game as the WPIAL’s second-leading rusher with 1,093 yards on 100 carries, spent the remainder of the half on the bench with ice on his left ankle. He was in street clothes for the second half.
“He is a huge element of our program and team offensively and defensively,” Shenango coach Jimmy Graham said. “You know, we had some kids who really stepped up tonight. With small schools like us, you have to have people on standby. I think they really did a great job coming in and executing and making some plays at the end to secure the victory.”
Miller stepped in at running back and finished with 67 yards and a score on 13 carries. He caught three passes for another 59 yards and a touchdown.
“I was very proud to see everyone step up, too,” he said. “Everyone chipped in for this win.”
Shenango’s offense took to the air as well. Campoli completed 9 of 13 passes for 150 yards and two scores.
“That just shows how advanced our offense is. We don’t have to run the ball; we aren’t just one-dimensional. Reis is a great back and everything. But, we showed that, after he went down, we have kids that can step it up and we can throw the ball more,” he said. “It was definitely a solid game all around. We started out a little rough in the first half, but our defense stepped it up in the second half and they didn’t score at all and our offense took over.”
In a wild first half, OLSH (4-2) scored first, but the Wildcats tallied the next three touchdowns on a pair of Watkins runs and Miller’s rushing touchdown. However, the Chargers came storming back with a pair of long scores for a 21-all tie. Shenango went ahead, 27-21, just before halftime when Campoli hit Miller for a 26-yard scoring strike.
It was all Wildcats in the second half as their defense quieted OLSH’s offense. After Dalton Peters hauled in a touchdown pass, Shenango blocked a punt in the end zone for a safety. The Wildcats added Hunter Lively’s 24-yard scoring run and Aidan Johnston booted a 25-yard field goal.
“I think, if we let up, we would have given them some motivation to come back,” Miller said. “We couldn’t do it, so we just kept our foot on the gas to take all their hope away.”
Shenango can win the conference title outright next week at Rochester (5-1).
“Fortunately, our kids are very battle-tested. For a lot of them, this is their third year being on the field. Their maturity shows in games like this because OLSH is a very, very good team. They are physical and, pound for pound, I’d have to say they are a bigger team than us. But, I think it just came down to having more positive plays than they did. The kids deserved it. They had a really good week of practice and came out and executed,” Graham said. “It’s any team’s goal to set their sights on the conference. We’re in a position now, fortunately, to compete next week against a very good Rochester team.”