BURGETTSTOWN – No one ever said making history for the first time in more than 40 years would be easy.
If anyone needed proof of that, just look at Burgettstown’s Friday night matchup against Three Rivers Conference foe Brentwood at Hill Memorial Stadium. With the conference title on the line, all either team had to do was win.
Fittingly, it came down to the leading scorer in Burgettstown history.
Senior Seth Phillis, who it was discovered by Burgettstown officials earlier this week set a school record for career points, drilled three field goals, including a 30-yarder with 2:29 remaining, to break a tie and give Burgettstown a thrilling 16-13 victory to clinch its second straight Three Rivers Conference championship.
And the game-deciding kick almost didn’t happen.
“They were pretty close (to blocking it),” said Phillis. “You just block everything out. I’ve been doing this a while, so I’m pretty confident.”
The consecutive conference titles are Burgettstown’s first set since doing it twice in the 1970s, most recently 1976 and ’77.
“It’s a staple of our program,” Phillis said. “It means everything.”
Coming into the game, it was a question of would Burgettstown’s 40-plus point average rule the day or Brentwood’s staunch defense (10 points against on average). And based on Burgettstown’s first drive, the game appeared like it would be a one-sided affair. The Blue Devils (6-0, 8-0) marched 71 yards in seven plays, including a 36-yard Shane Kemper run on the first play from scrimmage, to take a 7-0 lead.
But that would be the only time the Blue Devils would get into the end zone.
“Coach Kissel did an incredible job, and his boys were ready to play tonight,” said Burgettstown coach Mark Druga. “I can’t say enough about them.”
Burgettstown was held in check offensively for the most part, held to two Phillis field goals in the second quarter, but the Blue Devils got the play they needed on the game-winning drive. Cyle Conley managed to find space down the left sideline, where he had been going all game, for a clutch 53-yard run to set up the Blue Devils at the 12 of the Spartans (6-1, 7-2.)
Four plays later, Phillis drilled the deciding field goal.
But there was still time left, and the Blue Devils needed to come up with at least one more stop.
Well, they ended up getting two, both on interceptions. Jake Lounder picked off John Milcic with 2:16 to play, though the Blue Devils proceeded to turn the ball over on downs as Druga elected to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the Spartan 21 rather than risk another field-goal try.
Brentwood’s subsequent drive, however, only lasted one play as Kemper came up with Burgettstown’s fourth interception of the night to seal the victory.
“Once again, bend but don’t break,” said Druga. “I don’t care how many yards you get on us. At the end of the day, you have to put the ball in the end zone, or over the goal post, as we like to do.”
Conley finished with 135 rushing yards on 15 carries.
Phillis entered the game with 212 career points, breaking the previous record of 187 set by John Ozimek in 1959. He now has 222. He also had one of Burgettstown’s four interceptions.